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The Story of Mack Sennett 

By the same author 





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(A Play, in collaboration with Ben Hecht) 


(A Story of Bonfils and Tammen) 

In Preparation 

there's always the sky 


(Autobiography ist part) 

Mack Sennett 


The Story of Mac\ Sennett 





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12. SEE THEM RUN 1 59 





17. FE, FI, FO, FUM! 223 







Mack Sennett Frontispiece 


A platoon of Keystone Cops ready for any emergency 30 

Reformers stood aghast at the kind of nudism displayed 
by Mack Sennett's bathing beauties 64 

The bantam-weight champion of the Pacific Coast, Al 
McNeil, concedes a few pounds to Fatty Arbuckle 96 

The King changed his crown for a derby hat and his royal 
countenance for the clown's grin 136 

Ford Sterling offers a posie to Mabel Normand, while 
Mack Sennett registers what is commonly known as the 
gamut of emotions 152 

Milla Davenport throttles Mabel Normand while the po- 
lice hold gallant Harry McCoy and Fatty Arbuckle for 
questioning 168 

The side-splitting antics of Mack Sennett provoke a coy 
smile from Mabel Normand 184 

Dorothy La Rue puts the finger on the cowering Wallace 
Beery, while Sheriff (two-gun) Polly Moran invokes 
the law 224 

Classmates at Custard College enjoy a banquet not far 
from the camous 2^6 




Mabel Normand in the title role of Mickey 296 

The King of Comedy has just reminded Gloria Swanson 

of the good old days when she earned $65 a week 312 

Mack Sennett inspects one of his shock troops — Sally 

Eilers — in The Good-Bye Kiss 328 

Teddy signs on the dotted line 344 

Edendale, the citadel of slap-stick 360 

Mama Sinnott never stood in awe of her successful son 376 


The Story of Mack Sennett 

Of youth's glad sports this song foretold me, 
The festival of spring in happy freedom passed. 


Chapter I 


MR. AMOS CABOT resembled his late father in one 
respect — neither had ever been married. He con- 
curred in the opinion of certain poets that there is no hon- 
esty in love; there is no wisdom in love; there is no fore- 
sight in love. Other than the affair of the bronze medal, it 
would seem that Mr. Cabot never had been caught in the 
ambuscades of passion. 

Mr. Cabot served as pacemaker at the iron works of East 
Berlin, Connecticut. He was petty boss in the boiler depart- 
ment, and threw white-hot rivets ten hours a day. His 
pointed skull had the bleak quality of a carbuncle. His 
stumpy legs were bowed like the gams of a Yorkshire groom 
and he danced strangely as he worked, after the manner of 
a badly hanged thief. 



He was accounted a pinchpenny screw, his soul a black 
plague of avarice. He operated on a piece-work basis; the 
more rivets, the fatter his pay envelope. His hard-pressed 
crew labored on the flat-rate schedule of a dollar and a half 
a day each, irrespective of the number of bolts banged 
through the boiler plates. It was the opinion and belief of 
his underlings that Mr. Cabot was so morbidly intent on 
amassing wealth that he had schooled himself assiduously 
to abstain from visiting the foundry latrine — so as not to 
miss out on an extra rivet or two. Nor did it please him 
when his aides knocked off work because of washroom inter- 
ludes. He put handfuls of raw oatmeal in the drinking buck- 
ets each morning. 

"Oatmeal gives you more self-control," he would say. 

He was a solemn little fuss-budget, this Amos Cabot, as 
humorless as a moulting duck. He never smiled or cut ca- 
pers, which in itself seemed odd, inasmuch as his father was 
said to have been a circus clown. 

Although he was unpopular with the men, dogs seemed 
to like Mr. Cabot. They followed at his heels as he came 
to work, waited outside the gate until the shift was done, 
then traipsed after him again as he went home. He walked 
with a singular bogtrotter's motion, a gait supposedly in- 
herited from his mother. She first had met Amos's father at 
a dance in Bridgeport, the circus winter quarters. Her sub- 
sequent nervous breakdown may have affected the unborn 


child. How he came by a habit of touching every tree on the 
route to and from the iron works was not explained, but 
that practice exactly suited the meandering didoes of his 
mongrel retinue. 

Scandal-mongers often referred to Mr. Cabot's alleged 
peccadilloes. Such uncouth comment affected the good man's 
adrenals until blood gorged his neck. He particularly ab- 
horred gossip regarding the disappearance of a bronze 
medal awarded him by the company in commemoration of a 
quarter century of proficiency in the boiler shop. 

His detractors claimed that a notorious village Rahab, 
Miss Zelda Mahoney, had stolen the medal from Mr. Ca- 
bot's snap-purse one June night, thinking it a twenty-dollar 
gold piece. Unfortunately, he was unable to produce the 
commemorative disk in refutation of the charge. And the 
company, in accordance with business ethics, would not give 
him another token of esteem until twenty-five more years 
would have elapsed. 

"As God is my judge," Mr. Cabot would cry out, "the 
woman don't live that'd get a medal out of me." 

Certain female troglodytes of the town, a sprinkling of 
hash-house Gretchens, had set their caps for Mr. Cabot, but 
he appeared not to have noticed their ambitious designs. 
Either their art was so inferior or his resistance so prodi- 
gious that nothing whatsoever came of these hope-chest 
wiggle-gigglings and pussycat gambols. 


"I know these angels," he would say; "they got wings of 

Until the panic of 1893, Mr. Cabot had owned a bach- 
elor's cottage within a rivet's throw of the boiler shop. 
His greatest fear was that he might die a pauper and be 
buried in potter's field. Against this melancholy possibility, 
he had bought a plot in the East Berlin cemetery. He kept 
a home-made coffin hidden in a closet of his cottage, and in 
the coffin a black broadcloth burial suit with liberal ballast 
of camphor balls. 

The panic took the Cabot cottage and its furnishings — all 
except the coffin and the broadcloth cerements. He carted 
these sepulchral props to a warehouse for future reference 
and set about to mend his fortunes. For a time thereafter, 
Mr. Cabot pondered the tax-exempt and rent-free advantages 
of pitching a pup-tent and living on the site of his grave. The 
city fathers caused him to abandon that plan, so he went to 
reside with Joe Bingham, an iron-works colleague. Mr. Bing- 
ham was a "booster," or "bucker-up," at the boiler factory. 
He held the hot rivets while a helper hammered them through 
the plates. 

These men did not get on together as fellow-lodgers, al- 
though both were New Englanders. They behaved like mis- 
mated woodpeckers. Between them there was so much petty 
bickering that if one of them had been female, they easily 
could have passed as a married couple. There was but one 
bed, and Mr. Cabot's nightly insistence on letting his dogs 
sleep in it was a source of endless debate. 


The bucker-up sometimes awakened as though in a night- 
mare to shout: "Get them curs outta this bed, Amos. It 
dri'es me crazy !" 

Mr. Cabot would defend his mongrels. "These dogs ain't 
bother in' nobody. Just roll over and shut up." 

Relations became so brittle that the men stopped speaking 
to each other. In the evenings Mr. Bingham would sit, smok- 
ing his pipe, and Mr. Cabot would chew snuff. Each sus- 
pected the other of being insane. 

In the mornings, if Mr. Bingham chanced to be first up to 
use the washbasin, Mr. Cabot would make a point of scour- 
ing it, a hygienic innuendo of a leprous condition. If they 
had cake or pie for supper, the bucker-up had to keep an eye 
on the petty boss. Mr. Cabot had a sweet tooth and might 
gobble up the whole pastry. 

This condition of cross purposes obtained until October 
of the year 1897. It was just as well that something definite 
occurred ; the estranged companions apparently were headed 
for an axe-murder. 

These men subscribed jointly to a newspaper, the Hart- 
ford Courant, which was mailed them. Formerly they had 
divided it immediately on its receipt, one reading half of it 
while his colleague read the other half, then exchanging 
the halves. Now they began racing to the mail box and the 
winner kept the whole paper to himself until he had finished 
with it. The loser would sit and brood, waiting painfully to 
learn what had happened in the world the day before yester- 


Mr. Cabot suddenly became so successful in capturing the 
Conrant first, day after day, that Mr. Bingham wondered 
at it. He discounted an early surmise that the petty boss had 
bribed the postman; Mr. Cabot was too conservative to lay 
out money in that fashion. The bucker-up discarded theory 
and began to watch his companion's every move. To his 
amazement he learned that the petty boss had put up a second 
mail box on a tree some distance from the front gate and 
had instructed the letter carrier to leave the Courant there 
instead of at the regular box. 

On discovery of this double dealing, the bucker-up decided 
to say nothing but to catch the petty boss red-handed. Per- 
haps he might shame him. 

One October afternoon Mr. Cabot visited his secret mail 
box, and was busy reading that Lieutenant Robert E. Peary 
had welcomed some Esquimaux aboard the Arctic steamer 
Hope, and that His Holiness, Pope Leo XIII, was sinking 
into a coma. 

Mr. Bingham descended on the petty boss. "So that's it, 
you sneak!" said the bucker-up. "I might of knowed you 
was a low sneak." 

Mr. Cabot was so startled he threw the paper at his critic. 
'Take it, you cheap spy!" he said. "I'm sick and tired of this 
here naggin'. There's a limit." 

"Oho!" said Mr. Bingham. "Gettin' kinda touchy, eh?" 

"Just shut up. I'm packin' outta here." 

"Oho!" said Mr. Bingham. "Kinda sensitive, eh? Leavin', 


eh ? Well, go ahead and leave ! And take your goddam kid- 
neys and your cur dogs with you, too, you sneakin' tight- 
wad ! It's good news to me." 

Mr. Cabot said nothing in reply. He walked toward the 
house. Several of his dogs, including a moth-eaten hal re- 
setter, named Margaret, romped at his heels. 

The bucker-up ran after Mr. Cabot and took hold of his 
arm. "Admit you been a sneak. Go ahead and admit it." 

He began to pull and haul at Mr. Cabot. The dogs, not 
understanding the logic of human behavior, misinterpreted 
the bucker-up's gestures as a threat of violence. Margaret 
studied the tableau hastily, then sank her teeth in the bucker- 
up's left hip. The other Cabot adherents contributed voice 
and tusk and made Maypole ribbons of his trousers. 

The bucker-up began screaming. "Get them curs off'n me, 
for Crice sake! Help! It's me, Margaret, you damn fool!" 

Neighbors came to the rescue with brooms, stones, hot- 
water kettles and advice. Mr. Cabot went inside the house. 
He placed his belongings in a carpetbag. The bucker-up and 
neighbors were in a huddle, discussing the wounds and 
whether to summon the surgeon or the constable, when Mr. 
Cabot re-appeared with his carpetbag. He strode from the 
neighborhood with a great and cynical dignity, nor did he 
pause to touch trees or perform his customary minuet until 
out of sight and sound of his late home. 

Chapter 2 


THE sensitive Mr. Cabot next was seen walking the 
streets as Sunday dawn touched the elms of East Ber- 
lin. He was doing a gloomy polka, the mongrel troop travel- 
ing in his wake. A Mr. McClusky, on his way to Mass, said 
he had heard the petty boss speaking crossly to Margaret. 
She had found a dead lark and was trying to present it to 
her master. It was apparent that Mr. Cabot's command was 
being ignored. 

'Tut it down, Margaret," he said. 'Tut that God-forsaken 
bird down." 

A later report on the wanderer had him mooning near the 
cemetery, wherein lay his only real estate. Mr. Riddle, the 
asthmatic milkman on Route No. 2, said he had heard Mr. 



Cabot pleading with one of his dogs as it sniffed a grave- 
yard hedge. 

"Please come outta there, Duke," he said. "Where you 
think you are?" 

Mr. Cabot pranced through the gate, past the chapel and 
down a gravel lane leading to his property. His spirits rose 
as he thought of his holdings. He half nodded to each me- 
morial stone, reading the names aloud like an alderman 
speaking to worth-while neighbors at a clam bake. 

On approaching his plot, he saw a lunch bucket and a coat 
at the plinth of a column reared above the bones of the late 
Arthur Medbury. This granite shaft bore the legend: "A 
Loving Husband and Devoted Father." Mr. Cabot was so 
footsore and famished as to fear himself daft and the lunch 
bucket a mirage. 

As he advanced toward his own parcel of real estate, he 
heard a sloshing sound and was amazed to find a grave- 
digger working at this early hour. This stout fellow was 
sinking a pit at the very boundary of the Cabot holdings. 
The trench-maker was up to his chin in the trough, as busy 
as a beetle, grunting and throwing wet gravel and soupy 
clay onto Mr. Cabot's plot. 

Mr. Cabot pushed Margaret and her bird aside and peered 
into the fosse. "Hey! What's the idea, desecratin' my land?" 

The digger, a Falstafrlan Portuguese in fisherman's hip- 
boots, looked up and grinned : "Hello, pardner." Then he 
began to delve and splash again with a long-handled spade, 


like a bayman tonging for oysters. He was as happy as a gon- 
dolier and hummed a folk song as he wallowed. 

Mr. Cabot cuffed Margaret's ears. 'Take that bird and 
drop it somewhere, Margaret. I won't tell you again." Then 
he leaned once more over the pit. "Who give permission to 
sling mud onto my property? Do you know whatcha doin'?" 

The Portuguese's head bobbed up like a marker-buoy. 
"I'm diggin' a hole to put ole Tom Benson in. What time 
is it?" 

Margaret almost pushed Mr. Cabot into the cavity. "Take 
that bird somewheres, Margaret," he yelled, "or you can't 
sleep with me no more." He began lecturing into the grave. 
"Now look here, Porchie, you oughtta know better'n tres- 
pass like this!" He pointed pridefully across the chasm. 
"That's my property." 

The Portuguese stood up straight and craned his neck in 
a professional way. "Zat so? You should of bought a more 
dryer site, pardner. Just lookut me. Up to my crotch in 

Mr. Cabot struggled to maintain a proper cemeterial man- 
ner. "You might of put down a tarpaulin, what with all that 
muck. I oughtta sue somebody." 

The Portuguese screwed up his eye. "Did yah hear about 
ole man Benson?" 

Mr. Cabot began to dance impatiently. "The hell with 

"That's what his widow said at the funeral parlors. The 


ole boy left plenty insurance, but not to her. A fortune of 
eight hundred dollars ! Whee !" 

"The hell with her, too." 

The Portuguese leaned on his spade. "The undertaker — 
you know Joe Fishback — he tole me ole Benson left all his 
insurance to a fat chippy named Zelda." 

The mention of that medal-loving lady made Mr. Cabot 
swallow hard. "You keep away from me, Margaret," he 
said wheezily. "You're a bad girl, that's whatcha are." 

"And Mrs. Benson never knowed he was a chaser till the 
minute ole Tom lay dyin' with cholera morbus. He confessed. 
Can you imagine?" 

"Now look here, Porchie," said Mr. Cabot, "you have to 
tidy up my property or I'll sue." 

The Portuguese waved a muddy arm, an Edgar Lee Mas- 
ters on the job. "If some of these graves could only talk, 
lotsa flossy epitaphs'd have to be changed in a hurry. Eh, 
pardner? God A'mighty and Moses! Mrs. Benson was so 
confused about this Zelda scandal, she rousted me outta bed 
to sink this hole. 'Box him in and bury the filthy criminal 
quick,' she says. He only passed out two hour ago, screamin' 
for Zelda. That's speed for yah. Zelda's in a state of col- 
lapse, they say." 

Mr. Cabot was dancing full tilt now. Must a man always 
be reminded of his Adamic lapses? The Portuguese surveyed 
these ballet steps diagnostically. "Pardner, you're welcome 
to slip behindst Mr. Medbury's stone. That's where I alius 


go — unlest, of course, some member of the fambly is pres- 

The Portuguese puckered his mouth and winked like a 
satyr. "Mr. Medbury was another cucumber that give his 
wife hell on earth. His quiet hobby was women." He began 
pointing from the crater, his arm moving with the sema- 
phoric jerks of a referee over knocked-down fighters. 
"Women? This is the answer. They was the downfall of Mr. 
Gissing and Mr. Draper and all three Moulton brothers over 
in that there plot with the marble angel. Secret roosters. God 
A'mighty and Moses, pardner, if these harmless graves 
could only talk ! Go right behindst Mr. Medbury's stone. No- 
body'll peek." 

Mr. Cabot began pacing back and forth like a district at- 
torney. Then he circled the pit with an Indian dance. "Whose 
business is it where I buy a grave? What's it to you if I buy 
a wet grave or a dry one? Who're you to tell me what I 
should ought to do?" 

The Portuguese was alarmed, fearing he had committed 
a faux pas. "God, pardner ! You ain't a member of the Med- 
bury fambly by any chanct?" 

Mr. Cabot disregarded the wet mound of clay on his prop- 
erty. He sat down weakly on the slimy parapet and groaned. 
Margaret seized on this opportunity to deposit the dead bird 
in his lap. He accepted it absently and stared at the Portu- 
guese's lunch pail. 

The gravedigger peered sheepishly over the rim of his pit. 


"I wanna apologize to you, Mr. Medbury. I hope to drop 
dead right where I'm standin' if I ever used your brother's 
grave excep' in a big emergency." 

Mr. Cabot became aware of the bird. He hurled it from 
him, almost hitting the Portuguese. He wiped his hand on 
a pants-leg. "Don't talk to me," he said. "Just shut up." 

The Portuguese was worried. "If I spoke out of turn, Mr. 
Medbury, then let's just shake hands and forget it." 

"I ain't Mr. Medbury, Porchie, so just shut up." 

The Portuguese made another deduction, "If I ain't too 
inquisitive, pardner, mebbe you're a relative of this here Mr. 
Benson, or of his widow?" 

"I'm tired and hungry," said Mr. Cabot. "So just shut 
up and be damn' sure you clean up this here mess, or I'll 

The Portuguese was interested. "Tired and hungry, eh, 
pardner? Well, just open that there lunch pail and help your- 
self. Live and let live is rny motto." 

This mark of hospitality touched Mr. Cabot. Seldom had 
anyone offered him anything but gibes. "That's kinda white 
of you," he said. "I'm not no tramp. I just happened to be 
lookin' for a place to room and board and stopped in here 
to think." 

"This place is a sort of roomin' house at that," said the 
Portuguese. "You ain't a Mr. Medbury or a Mr. Benson 

Mr. Cabot had opened the lunch pail and was chewing on 


a sandwich. "I ain't nobody's relative at all, thank God." 

The Portuguese nodded. "Lotsa people'd give their eye- 
teeth to be able to say that. Relatives is the worst thing a 
man can have. But I shouldn't ought to kick. The more rela- 
tives there is, the more they devil their people to death, and 
the more graves I get to dig. Take that plot over there, for 
instance — the one with the sandstone balls on the ends and 
the motto : 'jesus is a rock/ Five of ole lady Hosmer's hus- 
bands is planted there . . . God, but you are hungry! Go 
right ahead, pardner." 

Mr. Cabot caught Margaret just in time. "No! No! No!" 
he said. "I don't want it, Margaret." He thought for a while, 
admiring the pie. "Where is it you board?" 

The gravedigger had been bailing out the trench with a 
battered bucket. "Well, pardner, their name is Sinnott. John 
F. Sinnott and his wife and four children. An Irish family. 
Irregardless of the hell I've had with Irishmen in my time, 
I gotta admit this place is great — with one or two excep- 

"How cheap is it?" 

"It's four dollars a week for a single gent and they pack 
your lunch bucket. It ain't everybody that gets punkin' pie 
in his nosebag, eh, pardner ?" 

Mr. Cabot was feeling happier now. He rose, did a few 
pirouettes to settle his meal and kept his eyes away from 
his violated property. "Thanks for the snack. You said this 
boardin' house had one or two exceptions. For instance ?" 


The Portuguese kept bailing out the grave as he talked. 
"They may have to bury ole man Benson in a punt," he said. 
"Well, it's a long story about these here Sinnotts. They come 
down from Canada a few months ago. Quebec. A town called 
Danville, I think the ole man said. He's a whale of a feller, 
six foot three and good-natured. The mother of the family — 
he calls her Catherine — is kinda partial to one of her sons, 
Michael. So there is some fights oncet in a while betwixt the 
boys. Michael's seventeen and can fight like hell. The other 
boys, George — he's the oldest — and John Junior, can fight 
like hell, too. Well, the ole man let's 'em fight. He sets on 
the cellar steps while they fight and umpires it. Oncet he got 
mixed up in the fight and one of the boys give him a lacin'. 
The ole man didn't resent bein' belted around, but he says to 
me: 'Leon,' he says, 'Leon, the saddest moment in a man's 
whole life is when his son gets big enough to lambaste him.' " 

Mr. Cabot wagged his finger at Duke. "You get away 
from Mr. Medbury's property, Duke." Then to the Portu- 
guese: "You mean the Sinnott house is noisy? That what 
you mean?" 

Leon looked down at his work. "You'd think this grave 
was the middle of Lake Erie. Is the house noisy? You ain't 
heard the half of it. I can see you're a quiet man, not used 
to noise." 

"No? I'm boss at a boiler factory," said Mr. Cabot, not 
without pride. "The pacemaker." 

The Portuguese's jaw dropped with amazement. "The hell 


you say! The iron works, hey? Well, they tell me lotsa the 
boys there know fat Zelda, ole Benson's chippy." He winked 
so lecherously that his eye seemed a lemon in a squeezer. 
"Maybe you know Zelda, eh, pardner?" 

Mr. Cabot almost strangled. "Women don't mean a damn 
to me. They're bad medicine." 

The Portuguese nodded and cleaned his ear of mud. 
"Where was I? Oh, yeah. The noise. Well, like I said, this 
middle son, Mike, a bull if there ever was one, thinks he'll 
be an opry singer. His ole man's dead set agin it. 'Leon/ 
says ole man Sinnott to me, 'Leon, I never thunk I'd live to 
see the day a son of mine'd take singin' more seriouser than 
decent work. I'd sooner see him in one of your graves than 
be a sissy lollygagger in tights at some perfumed theayter.' 
But the mother sympathizes with the boy, who sings like 
some big bull. He sings bass till he looks strangled. God 
A'mighty and Moses ! You should ought to hear it. A little 
dago named Signor Fontana comes oncet a week to give him 
lessons. Hah! Fifty cents a lesson, or I hope to drop dead. 
Opry ! Hah ! What do you think of opry, pardner?" 

Mr. Cabot pulled at his lip. "My experience with opera is 
it stinks." 

"That's practically what I tole young Mike. I says to him : 
'Mike/ I says, 'Mike, you're a good kid but you're ridin' for 
a fall, not to mention breakin' your pore ole father's heart. 
You should ought to give up this Signor Fontana, because 
he's nothin' but a downright musical pimp.' And all Mike did 


was just stand there and laugh. His brothers don't like it a 
bit, this singin' business. They play cards and sneer — and all 
in all it makes for lotsa noise. Singin' an' fightin', singin' an' 
fightin', and that prissy little dago puttin' on airs — but out- 
side of that the food's the best there is and plenty of it." 

"Where's this here place at?" said Mr. Cabot. 

"You go four blocks east on Maple, turn left and it's half 
a block. A big yeller house with geraniums. Just say I sent 

Having failed repeatedly to foist the defunct bird on her 
master, Margaret carried it over to the Portuguese and laid 
it on the edge of the grave. She lolled out her tongue, wagged 
her tail and wheezed. Leon picked up the bird, inspected it, 
then said to Mr. Cabot : 

"I guess you don't want her to have it ?" 

"I been talkin' to her all mornin' against it," said Mr. 
Cabot. "But when a bitch gets somethin' into her head, 
what's the use ?" 

"Well," said Leon, "I'll just put it in ole man Benson's 
grave. Won't he be surprised on Judgment Day ? A little bird 
singin' in his ear?" 

c? //^ 

A platoon of Keystone Cops ready for any emergency. {At telephone, 

Ford Sterling. Left to right, standing, Edgar Kennedy, Joe Demming, 

two unknown gentlemen, George Jeskey, Al St. John, Hank Mann, 

Rube Miller and Roscoe Arbuckle.) 

Chapter 3 


IT was the twentieth wedding anniversary of Mr. and 
Mrs. John F. Sinnott. Their whole establishment was 
celebrating when Mr. Cabot arrived to become a member of 
the household. There was good beer and a profusion of roast 
turkey, spiced cookies and great puddings. The boarders and 
many neighbors participated in this fete. They crowded about 
Mamma Sinnott, telling her over and over again how young 
she looked and what a lucky fellow Papa Sinnott was. 

The effusive host moved among his guests, beaming and 
calling out: "Have some more beer and turkey. There's 
plenty for all." Mr. Cabot was half -hidden in an alcove — 
and near a cake stand. Papa Sinnott dragged him out to 
meet everybody. 



"Bring this honored guest some beer. Where's Mr. Ca- 
bot's beer?" 

"I never indulge," Mr. Cabot explained. "It bloats me." 

The Sinnotts received all that afternoon, and at night gave 
a banquet with more beer and a whole roast pig, an apple 
in its mouth. Against his better judgment, Papa Sinnott had 
included the music master, Signor Fontana, among the 
guests. Mamma Sinnott had urged him not to snub Michael's 
vocal instructor. 

"Be nice to Signor Fontana," she said; "he's not long for 
this world." 

"I'll do it for you, Catherine," said Papa Sinnott, almost 
jerking his black mustache loose from its moorings. "Only 
don't expect me to kiss him." 

Signor Fontana, a furtive little man who smelled of moth 
balls, appeared in a high stiff collar, ascot tie and frock coat. 
He stayed out of Papa Sinnott's way as much as possible, 
remaining at a corner table examining his pupil's collection 
of old coins. He also avoided the brothers, George and 
Junior, who were eating turkey and playing euchre at an- 
other table. Occasionally they looked across the room and 

Mr. Cabot, hearing the clink of coins, sidled over to Si- 
gnor Fontana and Michael, horn-piping his way among the 
happy guests. The sight or sound of anything produced by 
the mint naturally interested the petty boss. 

Michael was glad to tell the history of his coins. "Most 


of 'em was left to my mother by an ancestor, Robert Mas- 

Mr. Cabot brought out his bandana kerchief. A blast 
stopped conversation all over the room. The card-playing 
brothers sniggered as Mr. Cabot's neck grew red. 

"Garlic's good for a cold," said Signor Fontana, bowing 
from the hips. 

Michael did not chuckle or otherwise pretend to have no- 
ticed the Gabriel's trumpet quality of the Cabot snout. He 
seemed a rather serious young man, not given to add to any- 
one's embarrassment. He quickly resumed his talk regarding 
coins, as though nothing had happened. The petty boss gave 
him a grateful glance. 

"This Mr. Masterson," said Michael, "had a farm at 
Richmond. He worked on the fortifications of Quebec and 
got a medal from the Government." 

Mr. Cabot frowned at the mention of medals. "It's real 
old money, eh?" 

Young Sinnott picked up a shilling. "This is a King 
James's coin. Worth more'n five dollars." 

Mr. Cabot was sceptical. "It ain't gold." 

Signor Fontana inspected the coin. "Five dollar! Si, si. 
Enough for ten music lessons." He bowed from the hips to 
Mr. Cabot. "You should hear my pupil sing. Like one great 

Leon, the Portuguese gravedigger, arrived now. He 
seemed a favorite with the guests, who greeted him with 


oblique references to his profession. He waved when he 
saw Mr. Cabot and beckoned. 

"Come to the bathroom while I wash the mud off'n me," 
he said. "God A'mighty and Moses, pardner ! You should of 
hung around till the internment. ,, 

"Did you clean up the mess on my property?'' 

The gravedigger raised his right hand. "Not a blade of 
grass was harmed. Comin' to the bathroom with me, pard- 

"No," said Mr. Cabot. "No." 

Mamma Sinnott was shaking a ringer at the Portuguese. 
"Leon," she said, "how many times I told you not to bring 
mud into the house? Now go get cleaned up. We got roast 


Leon beamed as Mamma Sinnott went to the kitchen. 
"Pardner, there goes the most sweetest woman in the world. 
Well, you sure missed a riot. Fat Zelda showed up, blub- 
berin' as big as life." Mr. Cabot stiffened and turned pale. 
The Portuguese went on: "Nobody expected the widow to 
appear, what with her collapse on account of the insurance. 
I was helpin' the pallbearers ease ole Tom's box into the 
grave — by the way, I put the bird where I said — and who 
comes rushin' from behindst Mr. Medbury's stone? Who 
d'yah think, pardner?" 

"I ain't concerned," said Mr. Cabot. "Just so's you cleaned 
up the mess." 

"Well, sir, it was the widow. We was all so busy with 


the tapes, lettin' Tom down easy, that our hands was tied. 
We couldn't stop the fracas. The widow first of! rammed 
Zelda in the eye with an umbrella and then picked up my 
spade. God A'mighty and Moses ! It was wonderful ! The 
Reverend Mowbry slipped on the wet clay and fell over the 
only floral piece, Zelda's, a bleedin' heart done in carnations. 
They had to lend Zelda an overcoat to go home in, she was 
that stark nakut, and both her eyes was swole shut." 

Mr. Cabot began to perspire and blotted his forehead with 
the bandana. His eyes popped out like rivets. 

The Portuguese went to the bathroom, whistling gaily. 

After the banquet there were speeches, and Michael pre- 
pared to sing "In the Gloaming." His brothers had resumed 
card playing as a demonstration of their lack of interest in 
Michael's virtuosity. Someone had put a newspaper inside 
the strings of the upright piano, and when Signor Fontana 
began to fondle the keys, the instrument gave out a stale, 
drumming rat-tat-tat. Whether the brothers had had any- 
thing to do with this atrocity, no one could say. They bent 
above their cards, paying no attention. Signor Fontana rem- 
edied the evil, bowed from the hips and started afresh. 

By the time Michael had concluded his song Mamma Sin- 
nott was in tears. Even Papa had softened a mite regarding 
musical education. There was an encore and Michael obliged 
with an aria in Italian. 

This was a most unhappy choice. Hardly had Michael bel- 


lowed the first phrases than Papa Sinnott banged a large fist 
on the arm of his chair and rose among the startled guests. 

"Stop!" he thundered. "Not another word of the dago 
language in this house ! The party's over." 

Everyone was uneasy. Michael stood, glowering. Signor 
Fontana bobbed up and down on the piano stool, shrugging 
until his ascot tie climbed to the top of his stiff collar and 
threatened to garrote him. Michael left the room; his mother 
followed him. The card-playing brothers went to the kitchen 
for some roast pig. The gravedigger nudged Mr. Cabot's side 
and said : 

"It's been an excitm* day, eh, pardner?" 

The boarders retired, shaking their heads. Outside the 
house, departing neighbors were stumbling over Mr. Cabot's 
slumbering dogs, causing many yowls. Papa Sinnott lit his 
pipe and slumped moodily in his chair. Mr. Cabot sat across 
the room, chewed snuff and meditated. 

Finally Papa Sinnott got up, went to a window and 
knocked the ashes from his pipe. "Well," he said, "let's me 
and you split a bottla beer." 

"I never indulge," said Mr. Cabot. 

"That's right. I forgot. Well, all I got to say is Signor 
Fontana's a bad influence. Whatcha think?" 

Mr. Cabot pondered a while, then handed down a decision. 
"My experience with singin' teachers is they're all wind and 
no brains." 

Papa Sinnott rose grandly and crossed the room. "Mr. Ca- 


bot, I wanna shake hands with you. You're welcome to my 
house, not as a boarder, but as a friend." 

By the end of the year Mr. Cabot was the favored boarder. 
Whenever there were disputes concerning politics or domes- 
tic problems, Papa Sinnott submitted such matters to the 
owl-faced petty boss. "He's a solid citizen," Papa would 
say, tapping his head. "Plenty of gray matter." 

Mr. Cabot found a place in the boiler works for Michael. 
He personally taught the young man the tricks of the trade, 
and soon Michael was using the hammer effectively on rivets. 
These were the days before pneumatic hammers, and the 
rivets were massaged with a hand sledge. 

Michael was a good workman; Mr. Cabot admitted as 
much. He could hold his own in all respects. He earned a 
dollar and a half a day, and Papa Sinnott was happy until the 
young man announced one evening that he planned to extend 
his musical horizon. He had decided to take a lesson from 
Signor Fontana every night I 

Papa Sinnott was astounded. He refused a third helping 
of cabbage and rose from the table. "This is the end," he 
said. "I wash my hands of his future." 

Mamma Sinnott spent two hours soothing her husband. 
"After all," she said, "the boy's a good, honest lad, hard 
working. He turns in most of his money to the family — ex- 
cept what he uses for music or to buy old coins. What if he 


does want to sing? What if he does want to spend fifty cents 
a night on his music?" 

Papa Sinnott seemed to have aged considerably. "Let him 
go ahead and do it. But mark my word, he's rushin' to his 

A man's first job is a most important matter; it is life's 
real morning. Great industrialists recall their early employ- 
ment as office boys, grocery clerks, printer's devils or livery 
stable valets. The ship owner remembers his first rowboat 
more vividly perhaps than he does last season's record-break- 
ing liner and tells how he peddled fish. The statesman will 
interrupt an arms conference to boast that he was the best 
horse trader in Missouri. With the curious exception of mo- 
tion-picture magnates, successful men like to dwell on these 
first jobs which seem so small and obscure until woven into 
the fabric of a dominant career. 

And a man's first boss is frequently more important in a 
realistic world than are his parents. A father or mother tries 
to teach a boy how to live. A boss shows him how to cope 
with life. The academic words of schoolmasters long are 
dead in a man's memory, but the bread-and-butter philoso- 
phies of a first boss never grow old or untrue. 

Weazened, neurotic Amos Cabot, proudly disdaining all 
kidney eccentricities and disorders, dancing grimly and with- 
out humor, working with daffy persistence and conscience- 
stricken with the thought of his only amatory lapse, had a 


lasting influence over Michael Sinnott. The years in the 
boiler factory not only toughened the muscles of the young 
man but gave him something of Mr. Cabot's brooding quali- 
ties, a hidden sensitivity, a love for animals, a persistence and 
gameness that bordered on fanaticism. 

The young man was of the earth, and although he had his 
share of dreams, his feet really never left the ground. What- 
ever he became, however fantastic his deeds or bizarre his 
behavior, there was something ruggedly earthy in his na- 

He had had little schooling, and it is conceivable that the 
tutelage of Mr. Cabot contributed largely to Michael's life- 
long habit of using his eyes and ears instead of his mouth. 

''Keep shut up as much as possible," Mr. Cabot told him. 

Michael grew to one hundred and eighty pounds and was 
still adding to the girth of his chest by the time he was 
twenty-five. He worked with iron, and that metal became a 
part of him. He was not quarrelsome, but advanced straight- 
way into a fight when it was forced upon him. He was well 
liked, but sometimes his fellow-workers regarded him as 
moody and given to strange periods of woolgathering. 

Work did not interfere with Michael's musical ambitions. 
He took lessons daily from Signor Fontana. Papa Sinnott 
tried to be resigned to fate. The father and son quit referring 
to music, and whenever the Signor called for the evening 
lesson, Papa Sinnott would go for walks — weather permit- 
ting — with Mr. Cabot. 


One moonlit night they strolled as far as the cemetery, 
where Mr. Cabot showed Papa Sinnott a new tombstone 
reared over his future abode. 

"Nobody's gonna catch me unprepared," said Mr. Cabot, 
jigging proudly beside his granite marker. 

Papa Sinnott knocked the ashes from his pipe, using Mr. 
Medbury's stone. "Amos/' he said, "you been with us a long 
time, and I think you got a lotta influence on Mike." 

Mr. Cabot was on his knees in the moonlight, looking for 
plantain weed in the sod. "What's your problem?" 

"The boy says he's goin' to New York and join up with 
the theayter. Mebbe you could put a spoke in it. I guess 
he . . ." 

Papa Sinnott almost jumped out of his skin. Something 
went past him. He was a brave man, but the suddenness of 
having his leg brushed in a cemetery unnerved him. The in- 
truder was Mr. Cabot's old friend, Margaret. She muzzled 
up to her hero, who said: "Margaret, you shouldn't ought 
to be up this late." 

Margaret was very old now and — like the vital Mrs. Hos- 
mer — had outlived many husbands. She moved rather stiffly, 
and, when Mr. Cabot patted her flank, moaned as though 
rheumatism had caught up with her. 

"Let's get out of here," said Papa Sinnott. 

On the way home, Mr. Cabot said : "Michael's a man now, 
and mebbe you should give him his head. Come to think 
of it, there's not much future in a boiler factory. Sometimes 


I wish'd I had of followed my impulse and gone into the 

He looked back at the cemetery, his customary gavotte 
seeming less spirited than in other years. "A boy has a right 
to think for hisself." 

Papa Sinnott was very sad. "I never thunk you'd turn 
against me, Amos ; this kinda hurts me inside." 

The day arrived when Mr. Cabot bogged down and had to 
stay home from work. A highly embarrassing condition had 
arisen. He who had been noted for so many years as a cham- 
pion of self-control now found himself utterly lacking in cer- 
tain respects. He left his rivets for as many times as twice 
each hour. The thoughtless iron workers noticed these re- 
cesses and commented rudely. 

On the day when the petty boss remained at home, Mi- 
chael took his place at the rivet forge. He worked the men 
so hard they grumbled: "He'll be another slave driver like 

After the noon whistle had blown, Mr. Bingham, the 
bucker-up, and two blacksmith's helpers interviewed Michael. 
"What's this I hear about old Amos?" the bucker-up asked. 
"Out chasin' the gals?" The blacksmith's helpers laughed at 
this witticism. 

Michael had opened his lunch bucket and was sitting be- 
side it. "He'll be back on the job tomorrow." 


"Oh," said a helper. "Maybe he's over at Zelda's, lookin' 
for his medal. " 

"Maybe," said Michael. 

"You and him's kinda thick, eh?" asked the bucker-up. 
"Ever go with him to Zelda's place?" ' 

One helper now deliberately turned over Michael's bucket 
with his foot. "I beg your pardon," said the helper, while 
the others sniggered. "I was lookin' for Amos's medal." 

Young Sinnott got up and let drive at the lunch-pail-tip- 
per's chin. The man went down. The other helper charged 
Michael. They battled for several seconds before the first 
helper recovered enough of his health to re-enter the fray. 
Two men of his department sought to help Michael, but he 
waved them aside. "I'll take care of this," he said. He pro- 
ceeded to give the blacksmith's helpers a lacing. 

With his foes on their haunches, Sinnott turned to the 
bucker-up. "Don't ever bring up the subject of medals again. 
Mr. Cabot's an old man now. You're an old man, too, Bing- 
ham, or I'd bust you in the snoot." 

Mr. Cabot didn't return to the boiler factory. His right 
leg pained him. There was a bruised appearance to his foot. 
He wouldn't lie down, but sat in a chair reading the Book of 
Job. The company doctor called on him. "Amos," said the 
physician, "I don't think you should go back to work." 

"For how long?" said Mr. Cabot. 


"Amos, you got something very serious. The test shows 
you have diabetes." 

"Meanin' what?" 

"Your kidneys are out of whack." 

Mr. Cabot endeavored to rise from the chair, the better 
to dance his displeasure. He sank back, however, gritting his 
teeth. "It's what they call irony," he said. 

The physician was packing his clinical case. "Rest all you 
can, stay in bed and quit eating anything with sugar in it. 
I'll see you next week. No pie or cake, Amos." 

Mr. Cabot refused to stay in bed. He sat on the front 
steps with old Margaret, watching the men on their way to 
and from work. Many of his former colleagues, men who 
had not liked him particularly, made a point of passing the 
Sinnott home to wave at Mr. Cabot as he sat brooding. They 
did not poke fun at him now. 

Margaret took to howling like a pessimistic wolf. This 
made the neighbors nervous. 

Late in 1905, and with the first snow, Amos Cabot went 
to the hospital. Surgeons said they would have to amputate 
his right leg above the knee. A life-long passion for pastry 
and sweets had downed him. He had diabetic gangrene. He 
said he was not afraid. 

Michael accompanied him to the hospital. He asked the old 
man if there were anything he might do. 

"There is," said Mr. Cabot. "I'm goin' to pass out and I 


want nobody but Leon to dig my grave. My burial suit and 
a casket is in a warehouse at Danbury. You might as well go 
now and get 'em. Bring 'em to East Berlin just in case." 

Michael took time off from the boiler department and went 
to Danbury. He not only arranged for transportation of the 
Cabot burial equipment, but also chanced on something of 
the highest importance. While looking at a collection of coins 
in a pawnshop window, he saw a medal. It showed a man in 
relief wielding a hammer, and had a motto — "Honesty, In- 
dustry, Loyalty" — embossed above the man with the ham- 

Michael went into the pawn shop and examined the medal. 
On the reverse side it bore an American eagle with the in- 
scription: "Presented to Amos Cabot, March 8, 1894, for 
twenty-five years of meritorious service." Michael bought 
the medal for a dollar and twenty cents. 

On returning to East Berlin, Michael took the medal to 
the hospital. The authorities would not permit him to visit 
Mr. Cabot. 

"He had a bad night," the nurse said. "They operated on 
him yesterday afternoon." 

Michael waited for the company physician, who said: 
"You can go in for a minute, Mike. I guess Amos is tough 
enough to stand it." 

The former petty boss was quite conscious; presumably 
something had been done to ease his pain. "Did you get my 
things?" he asked. 


"I did/' said Michael. "And I got somethin' else, too." 

He showed the medal. Mr. Cabot stared at it wordlessly 
for a full minute. There were tears in his eyes. "God bless 
you, Michael," he said. "God bless you." 

Michael told where he had found the medal. Finally Mr. 
Cabot said slyly: "Did the fellow know who hocked it?" 

"The record showed it was brought in by a Miss Zelda 
Mahoney in 1901." 

Mr. Cabot's eyes gleamed with youthful remembrance. 
"Urn, huh," he said, "urn, huh. So." 

Michael moved to the door. 

"Jest a minute, my boy," said the former petty boss. "You 
can do somethin' great for me. This is it : I got one leg in 
the grave. In a few days I'll be follerin' my leg." 

"Don't say that," said Michael. "You'll be up and around." 

"I'll never see spring. But I won't be in a pauper's grave, 
that's certain. Now, I want some of the boys from the works 
to take this here medal and countersink it in my tombstone, 
right away, so's when I'm gone, all can see that I won it fair 
and square and that I didn't lose it." 

Michael took Mr. Cabot's hand and the old man squeezed 
it. "God bless you," he said to Michael. "And don't forget, 
tell Leon to do a good job on my grave." 

The petty boss died and was buried. He had two claims to 
immortality — the bronze medal, imbedded in a stone, and the 
distinction of having been the first boss of Michael Sinnott. 


Michael had an opportunity to succeed the late Mr. Cabot 
at the boiler shop and on a piece-work basis. He turned down 
the offer. He said he was planning to leave for New York 
right away. He so informed his father. Perhaps he might 
have stayed a time longer in East Berlin, because of his great 
affection for his mother. But a more or less stormy scene 
caused him to decide otherwise. 

Michael said at dinner that he was going to change his 
name to "Sennett." 

'Tor God's sake, why?" asked Papa Sinnott. 

"Well," said the son, "when I go on the stage, I don't 
want to lay myself open to jokes." 

"Whatcha talkin' about?" the father asked. "You gone 

"You remember how I used to get in fights over my 
name?" Michael said. "You know very well how many fights 
we had when me and my brothers used to go to the parochial 
school at Point de Tremble. Not that I minded the fights. 
But what I didn't like was the jokes — all the kids yellin' at 
us : 'Look ! Here comes the three S'nott brothers !' Well, 
Papa, I can't take a chance like that when I go on the stage." 

The elder Sinnott rose. "Not good enough for yah, eh? 
The good old Irish name Sinnott's not good enough !" 

"It's plenty good," said Michael. "But not for stage pur- 

"All right," said the father. "All right. Go ahead. Go to 
New York and ruin yourself. I'm glad you're changin' your 


name to Sennett, or whatever it is. Then nobody'll ever 
throw it up to me that my son's a ham." 

Michael left East Berlin in the forepart of the year 1906. 
He demanded of the world that it recognize him hencefor- 
ward as Mack Sennett. 

Chapter 4 


MACK SENNETT strutted into the West Forty-third 
street boarding house of Madam Mamie Oakes, ex- 
wardrobe mistress of the Black Crook company. She saw a 
very cocky fellow who weighed one hundred and eighty 
pounds and was almost six feet tall. Her practiced eye took 
in his dark hair, brown eyes and ruddy complexion with the 
quick appreciation of a woman facing the Indian summer 
of her libido. 

Madam liked him at once. He reminded her of John L. 
Sullivan, the pugilistic champion, whose savage nature she 
had charmed with sentimental ditties played on the zither. 
That had been a long time ago and before her knight had 
embraced the canvas at New Orleans. 



Madam Mamie wore an auburn wig, said to have been 
given her by Boss Tweed for services that were political. She 
took great pride in this peach-colored transformation and 
shampooed it once a week with benzine. The artificial top- 
knot was familiar to Broadwayites, not a few of whom had 
skipped her boarding house without paying their bills. Such 
dead-beats regarded the sheen of Madam's auburn periwig 
as a godsend ; they could see it three blocks away and in time 
to deploy to saloons and skulk until Madam flounced past. 
The behavior of these ingrates did not make Madam cynical. 
She played her zither and told stories of gallant spear-bearers 
of the Black Crook era. 

The sentimental madam was stirred when Mr. Sennett 
sang to her accompaniment on the lap-lute. She interested 
some friends in his talent. They procured for him a job in 
the choir of the Baptist church, where John D. Rockefeller, 
Sr., was a communicant. 

A story is told — apocryphal perhaps — concerning the first 
service graced by Mack Sennett's stormy bass. The choir 
had rendered Mr. Rockefeller's favorite hymn, "Passing By." 
It is said that the tsar of the oil wells mistook the Sennett 
rumbles for meteorological disturbances and whispered to a 
retainer : "Did you bring an umbrella?" 

Mr. Sennett received a dollar for each church session and 
fifty cents bonus for funerals. On weekdays he walked up 
and down Broadway, looking for additional vocal work. He 
sometimes stood for half an hour gazing at the posters of 


the Metropolitan Opera House. He often loitered near the 
stage door. Once, on a rainy afternoon, he fancied that the 
managing director had waved to him. He lapsed again into 
obscurity when he realized that the great man was hailing a 
hansom cab. 

Mr. Sennett was an ambitious and open-minded fellow, 
the kind immortalized in the prose of Horatio Alger (except 
that he drank beer and chewed tobacco). He was slow to 
learn that two or three of Madam Mamie's guests were scar- 
let women. 

Despite the careful tutelage of Amos Cabot and the case- 
history of fat Zelda, Sennett was singularly naive when in 
scented company. He was unduly suspicious of men and 
their motives, but charmingly blind to the wiles of hussies. 

The lady who liked Mr. Sennett best in Madam Mamie's 
caravansary was Miss Lucile Howey. This manhandled hoy- 
den had a reputation for being hard-boiled and entirely com- 
mercial. Yet her latent emotions came to a simmer when she 
met the new boarder, a down-to-earth Adonis. Perhaps 
Madam's zither and Sennett's voice contributed to Lucile's 
romantic renaissance. She experienced a sudden nostalgia 
for the Ohio cross-roads and the farm she had believed too 
circumscribed for her talents. 

Lucile and Mack became good friends. They met in her 
sitting-room for abstemious visits. Lucile spoke of birds and 
flowers and many other things, but neglected to mention 
Mr. Volpi. Either this was a plain oversight or Lucile saw no 


reason for reference to one who acted as her amatory agent 
in the world outside the boarding house. Mr. Volpi collected 
a percentage of her receipts, and, if need be, went her bail in 
night court. 

Mack and Lucile were having a platonic chit-chat in her 
room one evening. Mr. Sennett's mood was rich in anecdote 
of the boiler works. He rocked complacently in his chair and 
recalled many adventures. Autobiographical conversations 
have a way of meandering, and Mr. Sennett's recital included 
such remote events as his birth. In fact, he had just informed 
Lucile that he had weighed twelve pounds at the start of life 
when a hammering on the door halted Mack's memoirs. 
Lucile became uneasy. 

"I hope I locked that door," she whispered. "Nix rock- 

Lucile's hope was unfounded. Mr. Volpi, her entrepreneur, 
opened the door and stood there quivering like a tuning-fork. 
His short stature made the razor which he held seem much 
longer than every-day cutlery. He was as pale as a chemise 
on the clothesline. 

Mr. Volpi entered the room. "Free love, eh?" 

Mr. Sennett rose from his rocking-chair. "Who are you, 
neighbor ?" 

Lucile threw herself against her solicitor's shirt-front. 
"Don't make a scene, honey. Madam Mamie's sleepin'." 

Mr. Volpi shoved his client aside, nicking his own wrist 


with the razor. He began to scream. "So this's why no 
money's come in the last week! A philanthropist, eh?" 

Mr. Sennett was mystified. He knew he could whip ten 
such impresarios in a rough-and-tumble, but somehow the 
open razor and bubbles of blood on Mr. Volpi's wrist had a 
sinister effect on him. 

"Who's this fellow, Lucile? Your uncle?" 

Once again Lucile hurled herself on Mr. Volpi. "Go 'way, 
honey. Madam Mamie's asleep, I tell you." 

"Well," said Mr. Volpi, through his teeth, "youse won't 
cheat on me no more, you smirkin' hay-shaker!" 

Lucile clung to her agent like the lass in the Rock of Ages 
picture. She applied a female version of the half -nelson as 
he began to circle the room. Mr. Volpi cut great Harlem 
rainbows in the air. The gas light made the razor glisten like 
a broadsword. 

"I'm goin' to cut both your hearts out an' hang 'em on 
your noses to dry," said Mr. Volpi. "Leggo my neck." 

"Control yourself, honey," said Lucile. "Mr. Sennett 
merely lives in this house. He's a gentleman." 

Mr. Volpi finally wrestled himself free of his protegee. He 
began to close in on Mr. Sennett. "Get ready for a funeral !" 

Mack wheeled. He made for the door and dashed down the 
stairs. Mr. Volpi followed him, howled and brandished his 
barbershop side-arm. The whole household was roused. 
Madam Mamie had been giving her wig a benzine dip. She 
emerged from quarters to see both gentlemen reach the 


street. She was unable to say a word and stood gaping. Her 
transformation wobbled in her hand. Madam looked like a 
bald brakeman trying to flag a through train. 

Pedestrians and newsboys joined in the fun outside the 
boarding house. They followed and cheered as at a regatta. 
The race lasted for twelve blocks. Mr. Sennett maintained a 
lead of about one length. Fortunately entrepreneurs are no- 
toriously short-winded, due to their sedentary habits. Mr. 
Volpi got a side ache and collapsed in the arms of a police- 
man in Seventh Avenue. Mr. Sennett was so relieved to have 
escaped a set of Heidelberg scars that he refused to prefer 

The beer was good at Kid McCoy's Rathskeller under the 
Casino Theater. Actors, playwrights, politicians and other 
Broadway mandarins patronized the noted pugilist's bar. 
Occasionally some visitor from the underworld wandered in 
and became brave with alcohol. Mr. McCoy kept a rubber 
mat in front of the bar, so that unclubby customers would 
not suffer fractured skulls when knocked down. Gyp the 
Blood, a gun-fellow afterward involved in the murder of 
gambler Rosenthal, was one of the rubber-mat casualties. 
He had threatened to shoot Mr. McCoy — a social and tac- 
tical error. 

Mr. Sennett decided on the McCoy establishment as a 
place to make theatrical connections. It was there that he be- 
came acquainted with the lesser Hamlets of New York. A 


few bits in the drama came his way, among them a two-line 
part in a play called The Boys of Company B. Citizen John 
Barrymore and Miss Frances Ring (sister of Blanche and 
wife of Thomas Meighan) were the leads in that offering. 
These players were excellent artists and the play was popular. 
It had the everlasting virtue of not compelling the public to 
think. Even in that day audiences were opposed to mental 

Mr. Barrymore is unable, try as he may, to recall the Sen- 
nett debut. So it is to be presumed that Mack did not bump 
into or trip up the principals during the run of The Boys of 
Company B. If it were not for the elephantine memory of 
Ken McGaffey, publicity man for the drama in question, 
notice of Mr. Sennett's first appearance might have escaped 
posterity. The man himself will not testify in regard to his 
thespic baptism. He rolls up his eyes in a coy manner, 
changes the subject and behaves altogether as if that bap- 
tism had been accompanied by shopworn fruit and mellow 

For those who crave incidental facts (after the manner of 
a lady in Brockton, a highly respectable and no doubt con- 
scientious correspondent who sometimes accuses me of short- 
changing her in this respect) I hasten to set down that The 
Boys of Company B was the work of Rida Johnson Young, 
ex-wife of James Young. Mr. Young became a director of 
the cinema and the husband of Clara Kimball Young. 


To return to Kid McCoy's historic saloon, an agreeable 
port of call, we find Mr. Sennett, tired from a day of stage- 
door loitering and on the lookout for any sort of work. It 
was here that he found an opportunity temporarily to become 
a house painter and decorator. De Wolf Hopper, foster 
father of Casey at the Bat, wanted his eight-room apartment 
at the Hotel Buckingham done over. His regular contractor 
was in Tombs Prison, awaiting trial for wife-beating, and 
Mr. Hopper was most anxious to have the work done. 

He sized up the muscular Mack Sennett and asked if he 
knew how to paint the inside of a house. 

"I was practically born with a paint brush in my hand," 
said Mack. 

They went to the Hopper apartment, where the actor ex- 
hibited materials and brushes gathered by the now impris- 
oned contractor. Mr. Hopper offered to pay four dollars for 
the job. 

"I only want seven of the eight rooms painted," said Mr. 
Hopper. "Just leave the dining-room alone. You see the pic- 
tures painted on the walls? They were done by one of my 
dearest friends. They've got to stay as is. Remember." 

Mr. Hopper left for the Long Island home of a friend 
and said he would be back next evening to inspect the work. 
"Be sure and don't paint the dining-room," he said. "It's a 

Mr. Sennett had never before held a paint brush. He 
smeared the kitchen and imagined he was going well. He for- 


got his instructions and painted the dining-room. The next 
afternoon, and while he was gauming Mr. Hopper's library 
(including the backs of books) the great actor returned. Mr. 
Sennett could hear him cursing with a voice which, for sheer 
resonance, outdid his own. 

When the world's foremost reciter of the epic of Mudville 
saw that his sacred dining-room had been daubed, he blew 
like a bull-whale. Mr. Sennett, himself spattered like a Piute 
medicine man, debated whether to fight or run. He elected 
to stand his ground and insist he was an experienced painter. 
He needed the four dollars. 

Mr. Hopper charged into the library, noticed his ruined 
books and yelled : "They got the wrong painter in jail !" 

"I want my money," said Sennett. "Give me my money 
and I'll go quietly." 

"You're not a painter," said Mr. Hopper. "You're a van- 

Mr. Sennett threw down his brush. "I'm a singer," he 
said. "The same as you are. Maybe better." 

Mr. Hopper was unable to say anything other than : "Oh, 

He settled for three dollars. Some years later he worked 
for Producer Mack Sennett. 

Raymond Hitchcock was one of the stars who afterward 
graced Mack's motion-picture payroll. Sennett met him on 


the long Broadway rounds. Sennett had applied for a job 
as chorus man in King Dodo at Daly's Theater. The music 
director approved him because of his big voice. But when the 
dance director got hold of him, his destiny seemed to be just 
the opposite of Napoleon's. He had more power than grace 
and couldn't keep in step. The fancy marches made him 

In this particular show, the music and dance directors were 
analyzing the Sennett talent when Mr. Hitchcock arrived 
to sit on the sidelines. He watched the locomotion for a time, 
then spoke to the stage manager : 

"Who's the bumpkin with two left feet?" 

The stage manager consulted a memorandum. "It says, 
'Sennett.' 'Mack Sennett.' " 

Mr. Hitchcock whispered to the stage manager, who in- 
formed Mr. Sennett : "I don't think you'll do." 

"What's the matter?" 

"Well, I don't think we need as many men as we have." 

Mr. Sennett fancied that some of the company tittered. He 
went over to Mr. Hitchcock and said : "You may be working 
for me some day." 

Mack wrote home that he was doing well, but the fact was 
that he had to take all manner of small jobs. In one of his 
optimistic letters he scrawled : 

"Dearest Mamma : 

"I know how awful prejudiced Papa is about music, but he 


will be proud of me yet. I'm sorry the church where I sing 
isn't Catholic, but am sure you will excuse it when I say 
it is a big opportunity. Why, only last Sunday I met a 
Professor Waldemar who has studios in Carnegie Hall. He 
has offered to teach me for nothing. That is, he says he will 
take me on 'speculation,' and when I get a job with the opera 
or theater, he will take out a part of my earnings to repay 
him. Better not tell Papa about Professor Waldemar just 
yet, as he is so prejudiced against these men who devote 
their life to helping the voices of others. I was pretty sorry 
to hear of Signor Fontana's death. He was a fine gentleman 
and would have been so proud of me." 

Mr. Sennett had appeared with little success in several 
musical comedies and operettas, including The Chinese 
Honeymoon, Floradora and Princess Chic. It was the same 
old story. He could uphold the bass against ten baritones and 
twelve tenors, but his dancing would have shamed Amos 

One day the dance director of Princess Chic called upon 
Mack to "rehearse" in the presence of the entire cast. After 
he had failed to master a routine, Mack was required to stand 
by while an effeminate gentleman of the troupe pranced out 
and did the nimblest sort of fandango. Mr. Sennett there- 
upon passed some comment as to the dancer's ladylike man- 
ners. Mack was fired. 


He was very sad as he broke the news to Madam Mamie. 
"I don't lisp," he said, "and I guess I can't dance, either." 

That same night the boarders at Madam Mamie's were in 
a panic. Madam had been cleaning her wig as usual with ben- 
zine. The fluid caught fire and Madam with it. Flames 
cloaked her as she ran through the hall. Like the ancient 
fire-bearing foxes, she touched off everything in her path. 
The window curtains, portieres and other furnishings began 
to burn. Mr. Sennett finally caught the landlady and rolled 
her in a rag rug. The fire department subdued the flames 
elsewhere. Mr. Sennett's hands were scorched and the sleeves 
of his best coat singed. 

Not only had Madam lost her wig, but her brows and 
lashes now were gone. She looked like a senile coot. She re- 
covered after three weeks in bed, and although it was almost 
certain that friction and nothing else had started the benzine 
burning, she always insisted that Mr. Volpi had left a lighted 
cigarette in the kitchen. She ordered that little agent never 
to come inside her house again. 

The boarding-house fire caused Mr. Sennett to delay his 
appointment at the Carnegie Hall studios of Professor Wal- 
demar. When he got a new coat he made another date and 
finally appeared for his free lesson. 

Mr. Sennett was impressed as he entered the professor's 
dignified reception room. A very efficient male secretary 
asked him to sit on a divan upholstered in horsehair. Oppo- 
site where he sat was a cheval-elass which reflected his 


brooding face and tense figure. He could feel the artistic 
grandeur of this rendezvous of the muses. 

As he waited there came a great and golden voice from 
the professor's sanctum. It was by far the best male voice 
Mr. Sennett had ever heard. 

"Who's that?" he asked. 

"That?" said the secretary. "Well, my friend, that is a 
very great artist you're listening to. A very, very great 
artist, indeed." 

"What's his name?" 

The secretary was eloquent. "An artist like that doesn't 
come every day. No, sir. This man works morning, night 
and noon to achieve perfection." 

"Don't you know what his name is?" 

The secretary was licking an envelope containing a bill. 
"Yes, sir. This man thinks enough of his God-given voice 
to practice six hours a day. Why, he studied two years in 
London, two in France, three in Germany and two and a 
half in Italy." 

Mr. Sennett gave up trying to learn the name. "Is he 
some rich man's son?" 

The secretary was pained. "Ah, no. No. No. No. He's an 
artist to his finger tips. The world means nothing to him. 
Just his art." 

"Where does he sing? The Metropolitan?" 

The secretary had found some dandruff on his lapel. 


"Just listen to how he handles that soft-toning. An artist, 
every inch of him — a son of St. Cecilia." 

"How does he manage to eat?" 

"He sings." 


The secretary was very solemn. "Up in the Bronx. At a 

"How much do they pay him?" 

"He gets a dollar a day." 

Mr. Sennett got up and went to the cheval-glass and 
looked at himself. He bowed, after the manner of Signor 

The secretary was slightly confused as he heard the 
young man say to the glass : 

"Good-bye, opera. It ain't for you, Mack !" 

He left the studio and went to his room at Madam 
Mamie's. He wrote a short letter home : 

"Dearest Mamma: I think Papa was right about singing." 

He never again took vocal lessons. 

Chapter 5 


A CHANCE reading of a news item dealt a second 
blow to Mack Sennett's musical ambitions — or what 
remained of them. 

The public prints quoted Bishop Warren A. Candler of 
the Methodist Episcopal Church South. He had launched 
an attack on John D. Rockefeller, the elder. The good 
bishop had risen among his fellow prelates in an Atlanta 
conference to assert that the one-million-dollar gift pro- 
posed by Mr. Rockefeller for the discovery of a cure for 
hookworm was a slander and an outrage on the South. He 
called it a vermifuge fund, and shouted: 
"Don't be taken in by it." 

Sennett was absorbing this news item at Kid McCoy's 



Rathskeller as the proprietor was boxing with the last fly 
of summer. Mack asked the Kid, one of Fistiana's fore- 
most scholars, the meaning of 'Vermifuge." The conqueror 
of Champion Tommy Ryan nailed a groggy fly against a 

"Ha," he said. "Ha, I belted him out. With the left, too. 
Ha!" He made snorting sounds and wrinkled his brow. 
"Vermifuge? Vermifuge? It's a Spanish phrase, meaning 
to cook up a lie. Imagine, a fly in November ! Ha." 

One of Mr. Sennett's outstanding characteristics was 
never to accept any man's opinion as final. He didn't pre- 
tend to be a savant himself, nor was he quick to admit in- 
fallible knowledge in another without painstaking verifica- 
tion. He sometimes collected as many as twenty verdicts on 
any subject, large or small, then retired within himself to 
consider, ponder, weigh and analyze in a manner afterward 
perfected by Mr. Theodore Dreiser. 

Somehow, he didn't think that "vermifuge" was what 
Kid McCoy declared it to mean. It might be Spanish. But 
he doubted it. He was a great doubter. It had a French 
sound. He had grown up in a Quebec community where a 
kind of French was spoken almost exclusively. At the Point 
de Tremble school he had been required to debate in French. 
Yes, it sounded French to Mack. 

He asked several Rathskeller customers concerning the 
good bishop's idiom. The replies were numerous but un- 
convincing. Finally he braved the erudite De Wolf Hopper, 

Reformers stood aghast at the kind of nudism displayed by Mack 
Scnnctt's bathing beauties. Among these emancipated nymphs at 
Castle Rock we find (from left to right) Marvel Rac ; Virginia Fox 
{Mrs. Darryl Zannck), fourth from left; Phyllis Haver, center, and 
Marion Aye, second from right. 


whose inherent good nature had not allowed him to be vin- 
dictive about Sennett's botchy paint-job. 

" 'Vermifuge/ my boy, is both adjective and substantive, 
meaning in the former case the causing of the expulsion of 
worms ; in the latter, it means an anthelmintic ; but need we 
go into that? I'm glad Louis Mann isn't here to contra- 
dict me. Let's have a beer." 

Mr. Sennett was considering. "Worms," he said. 

He then announced to Mr. Hopper that he was about 
to resign from the Rockefeller choir. "There's no future in 
it. If John D. can give a million dollars for worms, then 
he ought to raise the pay of the choir." 

Mr. Hopper nodded. "Devotion to the muse is a precari- 
ous business. Why, did you know that the great composer, 
Bach, got only a barrel of herring a year for playing the 
organ in a German church?" 

"No," said Mr. Sennett, "I never did." 

"And did you know," continued Mr. Hopper, "that the 
divine Handel received less than five quid a month for sim- 
ilar harmonic drudgeries in England?" 

After he had learned that both masters were dead he dis- 
regarded the statement that their music lived. "Why didn't 
somebody tell me all this before?" 

Mr. Sennett went to choir practice that night and re- 
signed from Mr. Rockefeller's service. His next and last 


professional venture in the musical field was with a quartet, 
The Happy Gondoliers. 

Business was slow for these warblers. Their talents were 
called upon sporadically at Elks' clubs and Moose picnics. 
Mr. Sennett suggested to the manager, Mr. Vogel, that they 
buy four police uniforms and re-name themselves The Sing- 
ing Cops. 

"That's out," said Mr. Vogel. "What'd we buy the uni- 
forms with? Nix. We already got velvet jackets and oars. 
Sink or swim, we're Gondoliers. 

Sennett had a passion for police uniforms and brass but- 
tons. In fact, he had been on the point of joining the police 
force, but learned that it took a long time before a patrol- 
man could hope to rise to a sergeantcy. Once he had por- 
trayed a gendarme on the stage and had played the role 
with such gusto that a director had uttered a word of re- 

The Gondoliers were standing at the corner of Thirty- 
ninth street and Broadway one December day when an 
unexpected offer was made them. It was fitting that this 
great opportunity came while they were conversing beside 
a program poster adorning the facade of the Metropolitan 
Opera House. The poster announced Enrico Caruso in 

A brother Elk approached Mr. Vogel and gave him the 
office The stranger, it appeared, had heard the Gondoliers 
at a Brooklyn benefit. He said he was manager of a small 


vaudeville house across the bridge. Would the boys appear 
there for a week? Or were they too busy? 

The deal was made, but Mr. Vogel was so excited that he 
forgot to ask the brother Elk for carfare. After the ben- 
efactor had disappeared, Mr. Vogel took a pencil and began 
to indulge in arithmetic on the Caruso poster. He was add- 
ing up a column of figures when a policeman nudged him 
with a nightstick. 

"Hey, mug!" said the officer. "Whatcha doin'? Defacin' 
public prop'ty?" 

"I was just going over my expense account," said Mr. 

The officer inspected the poster to make sure that nothing 
un-American or obscene was there, then told the Gondoliers 
to move on. They started south. 

"I guess we gotta walk to Brooklyn," said Mr. Vogel. 
"We'll pick up our jackets and oars on the way. Allez oup!" 

"You see," said Sennett, "if we had police uniforms we 
wouldn't have to carry them big oars and get kidded while 
we walk along the street. We could ride free on a car." 

In December of 1908, Mr. Sennett had big news for the 
Gondoliers. They were to have a tryout with a burlesque 
company. They got their oars and jackets and went to the 
theater in Seventh Avenue, full of beer and hope. At the 
close of the audition, the burlesque manager hired Mr. Sen- 
nett but said he didn't want the other Gondoliers. 

"Mr. Vogel," said Sennett, "if you had bought some 


cops' uniforms, I think you could have made the grade. 
So long." 

Mr. Sennett's first assignment was to play the hind legs 
of a horse. The man who portrayed the front legs was 
temperamental. He objected when Mr. Sennett, as the rear 
end, tried to do all the work. 

"He's gone ham on me," said Mr. Front Legs. "He's 
try in' to hog the whole act." 

After some study of the situation, Mr. Sennett decided 
he was too important to remain as the hind end of a horse. 

"I want to play a cop part," he told the manager. 

It was several weeks before such a part fell his way. He 
was very happy. His job was to appear in an act featuring 
two eccentric comedians and a soubrette. A description of 
the act and the presentation of its continuity is a distressing 
task. Yet, the scenario is no worse than some of the mod- 
ern screeds on which Hollywood authors use gold-tipped 
ostrich plumes for quills. And it is typical of the comedy 
nest in which were hatched the slap-stick eggs of Mack 
Sennett's success. 

The eccentric comedians came on stage with a large tele- 
scope and a sign: "Five Cents a Look." Mr. Sennett, 
dressed in his beloved police uniform and carrying a billy 
as big as a baseball bat, stood watching the antics of the 
comedians. Then the soubrette, in tights, strolled on and was 
immediately interested in the telescope. 

This lady was built according to specifications of that clas- 


sic decade: big legs, plenty of curves, hour-glass waist and 
billowing hips. She was beef, down to the heels. 

"Boys, what is it ?" the girl would say. 

"We're selling looks at the stars," was the reply. "Five 
cents a look." 

The girl paid her nickel, then leaned over to look through 
the instrument. She would report that she couldn't see any- 
thing. The men would reassure her and describe the planets 
she was sure to see. Meanwhile they would maneuver her 
hips into position, so that Policeman Sennett could whack 
her with his club. Of course she saw stars for the black- 

It was while serving in the burlesque ranks that Sennett 
heard of a new industry which was being pooh-poohed by 
the theatrical grand viziers of Broadway. This strangely 
appealing business consisted of the making and marketing 
of dramatic, comic and novelty scenes done on celluloid 
tape and shipped in tin cans to exhibitors. 

This business was born on February 5, 1861, when In- 
ventor Coleman Sellers put a series of prints on a paddle- 
wheel device (the Sellers Kinematoscope). But photo- 
graphic illusion of motion did not stir the country appre- 
ciably until after Thomas Alva Edison had devised his 
black box of spools and fifty-foot celluloid tapes in 1889. 
This was the Edison Kinetoscope. The first real film story 
— The Great Train Robbery — came in 1903. 


All these matters have been admirably and exhaustively 
treated by Historians Terry Ramsaye and Ben Hampton. 

We must mention, however, that in 1909, when Mack 
Sennett decided to investigate the situation, the peep-show 
era was definitely at an end and the movies had begun to 
sweep the land with the force of a religion. 

The motion-picture theater, however lowly and uncom- 
fortable, had supplanted the shooting galleries and penny 
arcades. The names of D. W. Griffith, Mary Pickford, 
Thomas H. Ince, Blanche Sweet, Florence Lawrence, Lillian 
and Dorothy Gish were about to be noised in a hundred 
lands. It was a transitional period from costly and selec- 
tive entertainment to cheap mass entertainment. 

Although theatrical men jeered at the movies and said 
the fad would last a year or less, many of them were afraid 
of the shadows. They advised actors not to risk their repu- 
tations by appearing in these fly-by-night flickering clap- 

When Sennett heard that professionals might hope to re- 
ceive as high as five dollars a day in the movies, he was in- 
terested. He found out which was the leading company — 
Biograph. He inquired who was the man in charge — Old 
Man McCutcheon. 

McCutcheon was the director who had made the pioneer 
story-picture — The Great Train Robbery, with G. M. 
("Broncho Billy") Anderson as its star, back in 1903. 

Certain historians state that Mack Sennett applied for a 


job at the Edison studio in the Bronx. He denies this and 
says he went to Old Man McCutcheon at Biograph. That 
studio was at No. n East Fourteenth street, an ancient 
brownstone mansion reminiscent of satin knee-breeches and 
the minuet. 

He arrived there on the twenty-ninth anniversary of his 
birth, January 17, 1909. A job was his present. He wrote 
home to Mamma Sinnott: "I've landed big and am on my 
way to fame. Be sure and tell Papa." 

Chapter 6 


PIONEER McCUTCHEON'S health failed and David 
Wark Griffith emerged from the ranks for a directorial 
debut. He was assigned to make The Adventures of Dolly, 
the story of a damsel in distress. This rickety offering 
started Griffith toward his place as the great anointed of the 
silver sheet. The production also introduced Arthur John- 
son, first "matinee idol" of the movies. 

Little was expected of Griffith's maiden effort. The piece 
was one of those hare-brained epics sired by literary hams. 
A tribe of gypsies pounced on Dolly, crammed her into a 
barrel, lifted the barrel to a wagon and drove off across 
the shingle of Sound Beach, Connecticut. 

Many things happened while Dolly was aging in the wood. 



Her barrel fell into a river, traveled over a falls, shot a 
rapids and eventually reached a sylvan backwater, from 
which it was fished by a group of rustic gossoons. 

This picture was unveiled for a fee of ten cents at Keith 
& Proctor's theater near Union Square. It proved two 
things : that a barrel was a durable vessel and that Griffith 
could do much with little. His employers rewarded him 
with a one-year contract at forty-five dollars a week and 
a royalty. By the end of the year he was earning more than 
three times the guarantee. 

He had come to Biograph about a year previous to the 
Dolly assignment, and had been known as Lawrence Grif- 
fith, poet, scenarist and actor. He was mild-mannered but 
intense, industrious and artistically resourceful. 

The three directorial leaders to leave their imprint on 
these trail-blazing days — the triumvirate of D. W. Griffith, 
Thomas H. Ince and Mack Sennett — resembled combatants 
whose weapons seemed invincible. Griffith performed with a 
rapier, Ince with a saber and Sennett with a bed-slat. Opti- 
mists of the publicity departments subsequently turned to 
the world of art and letters for comparisons indicative of 
their bosses' stature. Griffith became the "da Vinci of the 
Screen," Ince the cinema's "Rodin," and Sennett the "Mo- 
liere of the Movies." 

Griffith was the son of Brigadier Jacob W. Griffith of 
the Confederate Army. He was born at La Grange, Ken- 
tucky, January 22, 1880, five days after the mundane de- 


livery of Mack Sennett, and about a year and a half before 
Ince inhaled the pedigreed air of Newport, Rhode Island. 

Griffith attended public school, then played stock in Brook- 
lyn for several seasons. Afterward he joined James K. 
Hackett's company. He underwent an up-and-down no- 
vitiate as a screen actor and weathered a grim period of 
quill-driving and bench-dusting on primitive sets. Was he 
a good writer? He thought so. Was he a good actor? He 
thought so. Was he a great director ? Name a better one ! 

Within his first year as director, Griffith had laid the 
groundwork for a new screen technique. His films had 
quality, movement and suspense. A divine borealis played 
about the Griffith brow. The fledgling cormorants of the in- 
dustry squawked his praises — the same rapacious birds that 
in after years gnawed at his vitals. 

Griffith introduced a greater number of cinematic prac- 
tices than did any other three innovators. He was a well- 
spring of ideas. He had the will to breach the wall of 
motion-picture taboo and prejudice, that sullen barrier 
against which countless skulls have behaved like pumpkins. 
He became a messiah during a period when patent fights, 
film thefts, sabotage and business skullduggery laid less 
daring fellows by the heels. 

What Edison had done for the mechanics, Griffith did for 
the art of the movies. He articulated the mechanical media 
and bent them to his flair. The ' 'cut-back" was his — a method 
of reverting to the past and bringing it into the present. 


He formulated systems of editing a film. He experimented 
with light and shade. He used orchestras to rouse actors' 
emotions while a film was being made (Blanche Sweet, in 
Judith of Bethulia, 191 3, was the first one stirred in this 
fashion). He brought Mary Pickford to the screen (Violin 
Maker of Cremona, 1909) and developed many others who 
soon were to perch upon the celluloid Parnassus. And when 
he paid $175,000 for the motion-picture rights to a play 
(Way Down East, 1920) the doubting Thomases thought 
the Master had gone datt. 

It is probable that Griffith didn't introduce all the devices 
credited to him. The "close-up" may have been the stroke 
of his veteran camera man, Billy Bitzer. But Griffith used the 
tools of his craft as none had before and as few since 
have done. The big-wigs had ague when they first saw a Grif- 
fith "close-up" in the projection room. 

"It's murder," said one mogul. "Whoever heard of a 
face with no legs in sight?" 

Griffith said: "Museums are full of masterpieces with 
nothing but large and arresting faces. If the face tells what 
I mean it to tell, an audience will forget all about legs, 
arms, liver and lungs." 

As he advanced nearer to his The Birth of a Nation tri- 
umph, the Master revealed that he was no shrinking violet. 
He lapped up praise. For adverse criticism he had a superior 
disdain. He became aloof and lived much within himself, 


looked out windows for long periods, took solitary walks 
and made Mount Olympus his penthouse. 

A publicity man who had been receiving $150 a week 
once asked Griffith for a job. The Master offered him $35. 
When the press agent demurred, Griffith said : 

"Yes, I know what you've been getting. But it's worth 
a lot more than money to be working for me." 

Prodigal in effort and materials for productions, Griffith 
often pinched on the salaries of his people. He permitted 
Wallace Reid to get away from him, due to lack of gen- 
erosity in salary. 

Griffith's sudden and wholesale revisions of films startled 
the workmen of that day. He frequently made drastic 
changes within an hour or less of a pre-view. 

When he had finished Intolerance, it was decided to take 
the picture to Pomona for a tryout. The opus had cost 
nearly two million dollars. Griffith had shrunk three hun- 
dred thousand feet of negative to thirteen thousand feet for 
presentation. Joseph Carl Breil had composed a special mu- 
sical score and the orchestra had rehearsed the picture and 
the score together. 

Just before the Pomona pre-view, Griffith brought out his 
scissors for a final trim. He eliminated great chunks of cel- 
luloid, seemingly at random. The results were amazing. 

When the part depicting the Savior first reached the 
screen, the musicians were playing "In the Good Old Sum- 
mertime." And the romance between Miss Mae Marsh and 


Bobby Harron was unreeled to the rhythms of "Lead 
Kindly Light." 

Intolerance arrived in 1916, and after The Birth of a Na- 
tion. It failed at the box-office and provided the greatest 
commercial anti-climax in film history. This contrapuntal 
litany, rich in experimental work, made the citizens feel 
as though the Master had betrayed them. They believed Mr. 
Griffith was like the swain in Publisher Hearst's favorite 
story, a Romeo who winked at his sweetheart in the dark. 
He knew what he was doing, but nobody else did. 

The public wanted entertainment of the people, by the 
people and for the people. The Master had begun to deal in 
parables and had committed the blunder of trying to make 
his audience think. This inspired mistake is the basic reason 
for all crucifixions. 

The history of the cinema indicates that a man will pay 
a dollar to get a dime's worth of entertainment, but will not 
part with a dime to get a dollar's worth of ideals. Such are 
the economic philosophies of the mass mind. Unfortunate in- 
tellectuals have tried to reverse this order and quite de- 
servedly have been ridden out of town on rails, hooted by 
fishwives, hamstrung, saddled to ducking-stools, belly- 
banged and their beards dipped in horse-brine. The sover- 
eign public's credo is that the most precious enlightenment 
shall not disturb a still more precious slumber. 

Mankind sees fit to suppress the D. W. Griffiths, lest un- 
biased thinking become prevalent. Truth and reason might 


assume a dangerous popularity, like the eating of potatoes. 
The King of France wore a potato blossom in his lapel and 
his subjects straightway took to that vegetable with an al- 
most lecherous zest. Once France had placed its polite seal 
on the tuber, a well-mannered world followed suit. The rest 
is history — wars, boundary disputes, assassinations and 

Certain commentators would absolve the potato from 
blame in these matters. Yet how can they explain the sin 
of good health which the potato undoubtedly fosters? Good 
health makes men want to fight and steal one another's 

One hesitates even to think of the chaos, were some mod- 
ern prince or dictator suddenly to emulate the King of 
France and appear in public with the flower of truth on his 
lapel. But that cannot be. We are essentially a sane people, 
and, thank Heaven, did we lose our senses entirely, a vigi- 
lant educational system and a band of faithful reformers are 
eternally on the job, the former to nurture mediocrity and 
the latter to safeguard us from intellectual light. 

One of Poet Griffith's major faults was his candor, the 
crime of having opinions and sometimes expressing them. 
Sagacious henchmen more than once saved him from a pre- 
mature crucifixion by acting as buffers between him and the 

A minor example of his occasional bluntness, born of ar- 


tistic ennui, pertained to the filming of The Birth of a Na- 
tion. He had photographed the cotton-field sequences of that 
epic in the Imperial Valley of California. The local Chamber 
of Commerce had exerted itself to co-operate with him. 
When he had concluded the shooting, and the cotton fields 
were put in tin cans, he was tired. Too tired to babble. The 
Chamber asked if he would write a testimonial, something 
to be included in booster literature. Griffith composed this 
whimsy and handed it wearily to his publicity man : 

"It's a shame ever to take this country away from the 

The Griffith press agents, however, amended the thumb- 
nail philippic, and when it reached the Chamber, the mem- 
bers were elated by the eulogistic phrases. 

Mack Sennett began work as an extra for Biograph at 
least two years before Griffith became king of the honkytonk 
gods of shadowland. Yet, Mack felt the "presence" right off 
— he was a bloodhound for talent, deny it who will. He 
watched Griffith's every maneuver, and for a long time kept 
his eyes and ears open, his mouth shut — as recommended 
by Amos Cabot in boiler-shop homilies. 

His taciturnity gave Mack's fellow-workers an impres- 
sion that he was a sulker. When he ponders anything, his 
face grows solemn, his heavy brows beetle. His brooding 
periods evidently annoyed Griffith's wife, Linda Arvidson. 
Miss Arvidson, a talented and gracious lady, at that time 


was secretly wedded to the Master. In her reminiscences, 
she described Sennett as a "grouch." 

The memoirs of Mrs. Griffith appeared in 1925, at an 
hour when Mr. Sennett sat high upon a fantastic throne. He 
burned to the ears at remarks such as : 

"Sennett never approved whole-heartedly of anything we 
did, nor how we did it, nor who did it. There was some- 
thing wrong with all of us — even Mary Pickford." 

He was quoted as having said of Princess Mary : "I don't 
see what they're all so crazy about her for — I think she's 

Sennett holds the highest opinion of Miss Pickford and 
acclaims her an extraordinary business woman as well as an 
artist. One of the first things he learned at Biograph was 
that Miss Pickford had literary leanings as well as thespic 
talents. He was amazed to find that she had sold several 
scenarios to the company for as much as fifteen dollars each. 

He looked at Miss Pickford's fair young head, with its 
tumulus of curls. He decided that his own head, while not 
as fair, was larger. If saleable plots could originate in a lit- 
tle head, why not in a big one ? He consulted Miss Pickford 
regarding the emoluments of literature. 

"All you need is an idea," she said. "Then you put it 
down on paper." 

"It looks like easy pickings," said Sennett. 

"It's far from being hard," said Miss Pickford. "I sold 
two yesterday." 


"You don't say so," said Sennett. "Well, I wonder if 
you'd help me get started?" 

Little Mary replied she would be glad to help. Sennett then 
said : "Tell you what. You're a girl. They like you and you'd 
make a better salesman than me. I'll write some stones and 
the boss'll buy 'em from you." 

Sennett gave Mary three scenarios next morning. "Take 
'em to the editor while they're hot," he said, "and let it ap- 
pear that you wrote 'em." 

Miss Pickford submitted the stories. Mack waited 
anxiously for the verdict. That evening he cornered Mary. 
"What news?" 

She seemed sad. "Very bad news. In fact, the worst." 

"What did he say?" 

She looked at him accusingly. "Well, the editor read your 
efforts, shook his head and was going to throw them into 
the wastebasket. But I stopped him." 

Mr. Sennett swallowed hard. "He must have said some- 

"Indeed, he did. He said : 'My dear girl, didn't you know 
that O. Henry has been writing quite a while ?' ' 

"Hmmmmmm," said Sennett. "Hmmmmmm. I guess he 
was right. Maybe I should have changed them some more." 

When assignments were slow coming his way, Mack man- 
aged to get in on story conferences. To do this he resorted to 
tricks such as carrying the camera to location. And when 


Mr. Griffith sometimes offered a prize for an idea to fill out 
the remainder of a split-reel, Sennett invariably had a scen- 
ario concerning the police force. Many jokes arose concern- 
ing Sennett's craze for policemen. 

Mack contrived to engage Griffith in conversation at every 
opportunity. This was not easy for most folk, but Sennett 
was ambitious and persistent. According to Miss Arvidson, 
Sennett found out that Griffith walked the twenty-three 
blocks between the studio and his home every night, and lay 
in wait at the corner of Broadway and Fourteenth street. 
She added : 

"Then for twenty-three blocks he [Sennett] would have 
the boss all to himself and wholly at his mercy. Twenty- 
three blocks of uninterrupted conversation." 

During these walks, Griffith answered Sennett's questions, 
gave advice and said the future of a director promised more 
than that of an actor. 

Even the reminder of the great O. Henry did not deter 
Mack from trying to write scenarios. He had an idea that 
if one read the newspapers an inspiration might emerge. 
He was right. He evolved from one newspaper clipping a 
melodrama concerning a mother and three daughters (not 
Little Women) and handed the piece to Griffith. It was 
called The Lonely Villa and Miss Pickford appeared in the 

Sennett played bits with Flora Finch, Owen Moore, Flor- 


ence Lawrence, Tony O'Sullivan, Florence Auer, Henry B. 
Walthall and others. He "got over" rather well in a picture 
titled Father Gets in the Game, in which he portrayed a 
Parisian roue. His first hit, however, seems to have been 
The Curtain Pole, a. seven-hundred-and-fifty-foot comedy. 
This was a very long one for the pioneer period. It was 
made in the woods of Fort Lee, New Jersey, and appeared 
in February of 1909. 

Sennett had worked hard to be "starred," and when, in 
the course of this comedy, it came time to wreck a series of 
fruit stands, he assaulted the stalls with boiler-maker's vim. 
His acting, like himself, was muscular. 

Perhaps he was the happiest mortal alive one winter's day 
when snow fell in Central Park and his idea for a police- 
man's drama finally was accepted. Mr. Griffith changed its 
content materially and called it The Politician's Love Story. 
Furthermore, the Master put Sennett into it. 

Unfortunately, Mack didn't appear as a policeman, and 
had to be content to be the star, clad in a high silk hat, 
Inverness cape and handle-bar mustache. Miss Arvidson and 
Arthur Johnson provided the romance, an element necessary 
to motion pictures of all time. 

Miss Arvidson entertained a somewhat pessimistic view 
concerning the young man's destiny when she wrote in 

"Like a grouchy poker player who kicks himself into 


financial recuperation, Mack Sennett grouched himself into 

Once on the road to higher things, Sennett became con- 
genial and comparatively talkative. He now had his feet 
on the first rung, and he was not a man to let go. 

As his earnings increased, Sennett's desire for creature 
comforts mounted. In 191 o he was able to write home, prom- 
ising Mamma a trip to New York. He told her he had 
moved from the boarding house to an apartment of his own. 
It was a sixth-floor walk-up and on a narrow court. He could 
see fairly well into the bedroom of an apartment across the 
court, where a comely lass resided. Of course, he did not 
include that fact in his letter home. 

Chapter 7 


NUMEROUS and conflicting legends portray Henry 
Lehrman's advent to the motion-picture industry. One 
historian (since committed to an asylum) maintains that 
the dapper Mr. Lehrman was a conductor on a cross-town 
tram in New York; that he resigned this shuttling job to 
pursue three peroxide blondes to the Biograph studio. 

Another chronicler (a bigamist with a glass eye) con- 
fides that the bouncing Mr. Lehrman applied for a position 
as an actor and, as he was about to be thrown out, displayed 
a card labeled : "Monsieur Henri Lehrman, of Paris." He 
was put to work instanter. The biased Herodotus explains 
this parenthetically : 

"Americans so dote on foreign goods that Monsieur Lehr- 



man's success depended solely on his ability to gibber in 
some European patois." 

A writer of this stamp has no place in our society. The 
various legions of decency now in charge of motion pic- 
tures, literature and other moralistic diets should look into 
the matter at once. There not only is a grain of dangerous 
truth in the parenthetical remark quoted above, but undoubt- 
edly a hidden sexual reference. How many untutored young 
women have come across this sentence concerning foreign 
goods and straightway gone off on a biological junket with 
some insincere Greek? We cannot be too wary of libidinous 
writers and their corrupt inkhorns. 

The several versions of M. Lehrman's debut are so con- 
fusing that we are reduced to Monsieur's own deposition re- 
garding himself and his genesis. Mack Sennett declines alto- 
gether to testify. He does not choose to discuss M. Lehrman 
one way or another. A bare mention of the name sends the 
King of Comedy into a mauve funk. More is the pity, it 
plunges him into a brooding silence such as to weaken the 
morale of a biographer less inured than the present one to 
brushes with indignant fuglemen. 

During these retreats, Mr. Sennett drinks quarts of black 
coffee, remains incommunicado and makes motions sugges- 
tive of an umpire calling third strikes. The inference per- 
sists that M. Lehrman was a heavy at the court of King 

As the Hon. Alfred E. Smith used to say — after the band 


had ceased playing "Sidewalks of New York" — let us look 
at the record. 

M. Lehrman wasn't a product of France at all. He was 
born in Vienna, the home of the waltz and the schnitzel. A 
bright boy at school, he specialized in the study of sixteenth- 
century manners, morals and arts. When the movies invaded 
Austria, Henry promptly forgot waltzes, schnitzels and the 
sixteenth century and boarded the first available packet 
bound for America. 

Arrived in New York, Lehrman became a violent motion- 
picture fan. The names of actors were not public property 
in 1908, but Lehrman knew them all by their faces and their 
legs. He liked to take a sack of peanuts to the nickelodeon 
and see the same show two or three times. 

When chance offered itself, Lehrman became an usher at 
the Unique Theater. This was the first metropolitan show- 
house to charge ten cents for a motion-picture presentation. 

One Monday evening, and with the last show in progress, 
M. Lehrman was standing at the rear of the narrow audi- 
torium. He was watching the screen, whereon a drama called 
Coney Island was advancing to a fade out. It was a four- 
hundred-foot film and a successful effort in its day. 

While M. Lehrman was appraising this film for the twen- 
tieth time, a patron engaged him in conversation. "You see 
a lot of these pictures, buddy; how does this one strike you?" 

M. Lehrman was munching peanuts. "I think it's pretty 
fair — all but one character." 


The stranger was interested. "That so? Well, how do you 
like the comedian?" 

Monsieur was cracking a peanut inside a handkerchief, so 
as not to annoy the audience. "The fellow that plays the cop? 
He's the one I don't like. In fact, he smells up the joint." 

The stranger cleared his throat. "That so? Well, why 
don't you like him? Because he's a cop?" 

"No. Because he's a lunkhead. God knows he smells up 
the place a hundred per cent." 

The stranger made bull-frog noises. "Well, well, now. A 
fresh kid, eh? Do you know who the gentleman is?" 

"Even if it was Mansfield," said the usher, "he'd still be 
a bloomer. Can I get you a seat?" 

"For your information," said the stranger, "that there 
comedian happens to be Mack Sennett." 

"Have it your way," said M. Lehrman, "but it don't mean 
a thing to me." 

"You're pretty loose with your talk," said the man. "I 
happen to be Mack Sennett." 

The usher, temporarily deflated, looked through the gloom 
at Mr. Sennett. "Sure," he said. "I knew it all the time. I 
just wanted to see if you was conceited." 

Mr. Sennett was suspicious. "That so? Well, I thought 
you'd change your tune." 

"As a matter of fact," said M. Lehrman, "you walked 
away with this picture, and you know it." 

Somewhat mollified, Mr. Sennett turned to leave the 


theater. "Come over to the studio sometime and see me 
work. We're making a picture called Nursing a Viper/' 

Next day Lehrman called at Biograph. The door attendant 
said that Mr. Sennett was not expecting callers. M. Lehrman 
then resorted to strategy. 

"I'm not a common ordinary visitor," he said. "I'm from 
the Pathe Company in France." 

He was believed to the hilt and admitted. No sooner had 
he passed the door than he found himself hired as an extra 
and given a soldier's uniform and a heavy rifle. 

The gallant monsieur knew a great deal about sixteenth- 
century manners but practically nothing in regard to twen- 
tieth-century grease-paint. He reported before the camera 
with a face smeared in the manner of De Wolf Hopper's 
apartment the time Sennett had decorated it. 

Director Griffith examined Lehrman critically. "Go fix 
that make-up. This is not an Indian story." 

After Monsieur had retired for a fresh paint job, Griffith 
said: "Claims he worked for Pathe, eh? He never worked 
for anybody." 

Lehrman reappeared and Griffith ironically referred to 
him as "Pathe," a nickname which stayed with Monsieur. 
"Get in this chase scene, Pathe," Mr. Griffith said. "And 
don't look at the camera." 

Pathe decided to perform conspicuously to atone for the 
blunder in making up his face. He was one of a company 
of soldiers who ran into a three-story building to "save the 


day." After the troops had dashed inside, Pathe reappeared 
alone at an upper window and leaped out! In this astound- 
ing jump he carried his sixteen-pound rifle and a knapsack 
stuffed with rags. Fortunately he landed on the knapsack 
as he crashed to a balcony twenty feet below the window. 
The whole company was amazed at this unexpected business. 

Griffith hastened to the balcony to ascertain how many 
bones had been broken. Monsieur looked up and smiled like 
a dying lover. Griffith then informed the daring soldier : 

"You were outside the range of the camera !" 

"Then put up the camera and let me do it again/' said 

Mr. Griffith communed with himself. "All right. But you 
must sign a paper absolving us from responsibility." 

Pathe almost bit his tongue in two as he hit the balcony 
for a second crash. But he received a bonus for the feat. This, 
together with his salary for the day's work, earned him ten 
dollars. The great sum all but ruined Pathe. Never again 
would an ordinary wage satisfy his thirst. He suffered a 
temporary attack of a rush of wealth to the head — one of the 
most incurable of ailments. 

After the ten dollars was spent, Pathe learned that kan- 
garoo leaps were not needed every day. He had quit his job 
as an usher and reported every morning at Biograph, leap- 
ing and cavorting to attract attention. But no work ma- 
terialized. Griffith directed as though Pathe did not exist. 
This indifference galled Monsieur, who regarded the art of 


directing as a racket, one which anyone might learn in a 
week or two. 

He watched Griffith and looked for directorial flaws. One 
day Griffith was rehearsing a sixteenth-century scene, in 
which William Russell played the part of an executioner. The 
sixteenth century — right up Pathe' s alley ! 

Russell wielded a sword. Pathe had been taught that 
sword-toting in the sixteenth century was a privilege con- 
fined solely to the nobility. He finally worked up his courage 
and whispered into Griffith's ear : 

"They didn't use swords, boss. Axes I" 

Mr. Griffith did not pretend to hear Monsieur's criticism, 
but went ahead with the scene. Nevertheless, an axe pres- 
ently appeared from some mysterious quarter. Then Mr. 
Griffith said: 

"Bill, let's try it without the sword once." 

Russell picked up the axe and repeated the action, but 
without much spirit. Actors love swords. An axe will never 
suit them. If there is one prop in all the paraphernalia of 
stage and screen that raises the blood-pressure of a Thes- 
pian, it is a sword. It makes him feel dauntless. Lacking an 
alternative, an actor would run his great-grandmother 
through the pancreas rather than forego the joy of bran- 
dishing a military skewer. 

After the episode of the sixteenth-century axe-man, Grif- 
fith put Lehrman to work again. Pathe made suggestions 
from time to time and the Master began to take him out to 


lunch. This attention flattered Pathe and made other actors 

Sennett now began to take notice of the ex-usher. He 
asked Pathe to move into his apartment, an invitation which 
was accepted. Another resident of the Sennett flat was Del 
Henderson, leading man of Biograph's second company. 

The Sennett apartment originally had cost Mack $30 a 
month. To cut the overhead he sublet rooms to Pathe and 
Henderson. Mack reserved the front room for himself. Hen- 
derson occupied the second-best room, for which he paid 
Sennett $16 a month. Sennett assigned the third and small- 
est chamber to Pathe. 

"You can have it for $2.50 a week," Sennett said, "but 
you'll have to cook our breakfasts." 

Lehrman did not fancy being a chef and began to burn 
things so haphazardly that Sennett had to prepare the morn- 
ing meals. 

These three men devoted most of their spare time to talk 
of pictures. All three had native ability in the field. Henderson 
knew how they should be acted. Sennett had a fine critical 
sense and could foretell what the public would like and 
what it would not like. He was a dependable barometer, be- 
cause he himself had the average man's amusement tastes. 
Lehrman soon demonstrated that he had a natural creative 
bent and a flair for story construction. The three men played 
a sort of make-believe game, pretending they were pro- 


ducers. They looked forward to a day when they might step 
in and make pictures to suit themselves. 

"I want to be a director," Sennett said to his lodgers. 
"That's where the future is. This ham acting is only a 

Sennett had his eye on a job held by Frank Powell, direc- 
tor of Biograph's second company. Each night he would ask 
Henderson, Powell's leading man : 

"How's Powell's health tonight?" 

"I think he's cracking up gradually," Henderson would 
report. "He can't last forever." 

The Powell "crack-up" was not to come for many months, 
but the three men waited patiently. To be prepared for the 
Powell decline and fall, Sennett kept Lehrman working in- 
cessantly. At night he would bludgeon him for ideas, nor 
would he let Pathe go to sleep until some worth-while sug- 
gestion had been made. Sometimes they concocted a saleable 
scenario, and Mack would peddle it next day. Lehrman 
profited from these nocturnal sessions, for Sennett always 
handed over the entire proceeds of the sales to his guest. 
Mack was less interested in the money than in laying a foun- 
dation for fame. 

The Sennett apartment gave on a narrow air-shaft, or 
court, which separated the building he lived in from another 
apartment house. This long court ended in a "V"-shaped 
cul-de-sac, with a window on either leg of the "V." Pathe 


Lehrman's chamber looked out from one side of the "V" 
and commanded an unusually fine view of the windows 
aligned squarely along the sides of the court. He could 
see fairly well into Sennett's room and exceptionally well 
into the boudoir of the lady who roomed across the air-shaft 
from Sennett's bedchamber. 

Pathe liked to sit there in the early morning and see what 
was going on. 

One day in summer, and while Pathe was at his post of 
observation, he saw the shade of Sennett's room go half 
way to the top. Next he glimpsed Mack taking some exer- 
cises intended to preserve the contour of his big muscles. 
The Sennett face was hidden by the half-raised window 
shade. The lower part of his body was visible, from neck 
to knees. 

After watching the Sennett gyrations for a time, Pathe 
turned his attention to the boudoir opposite Mack's. He no- 
ticed that the lady across the way also was inspecting the 
Sennett charms. She seemed pleased. 

The Sennett group had been trying for several weeks to 
make this young lady's acquaintance, but with no success. 
They frequently paused while discussing picture plots to re- 
mark how sweet their neighbor seemed. They often won- 
dered if the man who sometimes called on her were her 
brother. They could not be sure, because she was accus- 
tomed to close the window and draw the blind. 

When Pathe saw how interested this lady was in the Sen- 

The bantam-weight champion of the Pacific Coast, 
Al McNeil, concedes a few pounds to Fatty Arbuckle. 


nett calisthenics, he decided to capitalize, if possible, on his 
host's display. He got into his clothes hastily and waited 
until Mack let up on the body-building antics to go to the 
bathroom. Pathe made sure the coast was clear, then darted 
into Mack's room, put up the blind and stood there 
smiling and taking credit for the better torso. 

The lady smiled back at Pathe. He made an appointment 
for that evening, restored the blind to its half-way mark and 
left the room. En route with Mack to the studio, Pathe's 
conscience wobbled a little when Sennett said : 

"I'm going to get acquainted with that lady across the 
way tonight or bust. I got an awful urge for her." 

When Sennett returned home that night, he decided to 
launch the great flirtation. He combed his hair carefully, put 
on a fresh shirt and tie and went to the window. He was 
astonished to see an ironing board spanning the air-shaft. 
One end of the board rested on his window sill, the other 
on the window sill of the sylph's bedroom. 

While he was looking at this improvised bridge, he heard 
the giggling voice of her whom he would have enshrined as 
Juliet. Then he heard a voice very familiar to him, that of 
Pathe Lehrman. More, he could see clearly that the lady was 
wiggling in Monsieur's arms. 

Mack's first impulse was to yell at the abandoned crea- 
tures. He thought better of it and pulled in the ironing 
board. Mr. Sennett stood there, brooding and a bit jealous. 
It was as though Juliet had been unfaithful. No. It was 


Monsieur who had been unfaithful. In fact, both had been 

As he watched this galling tableau, Sennett thought he 
heard a knocking at a door. Monsieur and his new mate also 
heard the knocking. It was at the lady's door! She slipped 
from Pathe's embrace and motioned for him to fly. He had 
had a similar idea, but when he got to the window, he saw 
no avenue of escape. He leaned over the sill, looking vainly 
for his drawbridge. It was what is known as a dilemma, 
with horns. 

The lass was at the door, calling out lamely: "Just a 
minute, sweetheart. Wait till I slip something on, honey 

The knocking became more pronounced. Honey Lamb 
had sledge-hammer fists. Amidst the din, with battering- 
ram blows falling on the door-panels and cries of "precious 
pie" and "lamb," Lehrman heard sardonic laughter. He 
looked across the gully to discover Mr. Sennett. 

Pathe made windmill gestures. "For God's sake, Mack! 
The ironing board. Quick !" 

Mr. Sennett shrugged. "Why don't you jump? That's 
how you got in pictures." 

Monsieur's face had a drowned man's complexion. 
"Shove out the board, Mack. I think he's got a gun !" 

"Jump, Pathe. If you fall I'll catch you." 

It seemed that the man at the door was on the point of 
breaking it loose from its hinges. Pathe hesitated no longer. 


He stepped back, closed his eyes as though in prayer, opened 
them, tensed his muscles, took a running start and jumped 
out the window. He barely seized the sill of Sennett's win- 
dow and hung there, gasping like a punctured concertina. 
Mr. Sennett relented and drew Pathe to safety. 

Pathe sat on the floor and Mack mercifully drew the 
shade. They could hear the lady across the way explain to 
her caller : 

"I was in a bath and couldn't unlock the door. You're so 
impatient, honey pie." 

The voice of a gentleman — a disciple of Sherlock Holmes 
no doubt — was heard. " You're pretty dry to of been in the 
bath. I would of swore I heard somebody in here with you." 

Then the lady's voice in righteous challenge : " Why don't 
you look under the bed, pie ?" 

Then the man's : "And if you think I ain't goin' to look 
there, you're crazy." 

Chapter 8 


HOLLYWOOD occupies a site said to have been the 
habitat of the now extinct Cahuenga Indians. These 
interesting aborigines lived in lop-sided clay igloos and sub- 
sisted on grasshoppers. They were Digger Indians, the least 
intelligent natives known to American anthropology. 
Proudly indolent, steadfastly dumb and religiously filthy, the 
Cahuengas survived as long as they did because their enemies 
dared not approach within a mile of the mud domes, so vio- 
lent were the olfactory reactions. 

The Nez Perce Indians from the north used to wear a 
clothes-pin device on their noses when hunting near the 
Cahuenga villages. If lost in a fog, all a Nez Perce Nimrod 
need do to get his bearings was remove the nose-clamp 



for a split-second, then run like a gossip. Their term for this 
sort of navigation — "Aremac! Aremac!" — literally means 
"dead reckoning." Linguists believe their use of the word 
"dead" had a much fuller implication than obtains in our 
maritime idiom. Concerning the Cahuengas, the Nez Perce 
Indians had a saying : 

"Heyt tusm eb sporiversus," or, as translated by Commis- 
sioner Eros Levan of the Carnegie Foundation : "Man com- 
poses — The Great Spirit decomposes. Ugh!" 

The Cahuengas, however, had certain amazing abilities, 
which may reasonably be ascribed to the climate. Impotent 
of nostril, they possessed remarkably sharp ears, especially 
for gossip. It is claimed they actually could hear a tree rot. 
Not only trees, but themselves. 

By some perverse code of manners, it was accounted im- 
polite for one tribesman to say to another : "You look well 
today." The proper greeting was : "You look pretty rotten," 
or, "I hope you feel as rotten as you look." 

Dumb as they seemed, this great race was smart enough 
to shun wedlock. They never had heard of the institution. 
The only thing regarded by them as immoral, or a source of 
infinite gossip, was for a man to dine with a woman in pub- 
lic. Where they slept, or how, was of no import. It was 
where and with whom they munched their grasshoppers that 
counted. A vestige of this quaint outlook is preserved in 
modern Hollywood. Indeed, one of the better Hollywood 
restaurants stands on the selfsame ground where a Cahuenga 


sire strangled his daughter and her fiance for dining where 
all could see. It would have got in the newspapers — had 
there been any among these people. All three principals in 
the tragedy had slept together amicably the night before the 

The gentle Cahuengas were unfailing weather forecasters. 
It was to their advantage to excel in this respect. For, were 
it to rain, they suffered an involuntary bath. Also, it dam- 
aged their mud hovels, dwellings not a great deal more sub- 
stantial than the mansions of present-day Hollywood. Con- 
cerning the rain, a great sachem, Erunam ("Buffalo Chip") 
Cahuenga, had a pithy saying : 

"Srosnec era punworg deb srettew," or, as so adroitly 
translated by Professor Enots Dloc of Mutorcs Seminary: 
"This is unusual weather, by Gar !" 

Although their enemies for centuries had been powerless 
to prevail against them, the Cahuengas suddenly began to 
die off. The great decimation followed on the arrival of 
missionaries. These advance guards of civilization introduced 
the marriage ceremony and compelled the womenfolk to 
put on long underwear and calico wrappers. Sensible re- 
search workers do not believe that the advent of prayer, 
clothing and morals had anything to do with the extinction 
of this once brave race. It is true that diseases hitherto un- 
known to the Cahuengas, including tuberculosis, St. Vitus's 
Dance and certain social infections, laid them low ; but it is 
known for a fact that their souls were saved. 


Modern Hollywood began as a ranch, and, in a manner 
of speaking, continues to be one. Although there has been 
an appreciable change in the fauna, and the flora has been 
overwhelmed by pink minarets, open markets and shoppes, a 
lassitude prevails similar to that of the siesta hour on a 

The climate, it goes without saying, is ideal — consisting 
of all four seasons every day. A man may enjoy a sun- 
stroke at noon and revel in chilblains at midnight. The 
roses have little odor, a phenomenon explained in a legend 
which portrays Oknub, the Great Spirit, as having become 
miffed at a professor of botany who had turned up his nose 
when a Cahuenga squaw flirted with him. 

"Just for that," the legend quotes Oknub to have roared, 
<; we will have no more odors until palefaces shall come with 
black boxes that have single eyes." 

The ranch, which (through no fault of its own) became 
the potter's field of the arts, belonged to Mrs. H. H. Wil- 
cox. She had been a Prohibition worker in Kansas. The 
products of her estate consisted of apricots and figs. Oranges, 
with or without navels, had not yet become part of the 
Hollywood landscape. 

It is said that Mrs. Wilcox was traveling in the East in 
1883 and had become acquainted with a lady who owned 
a farm in New England. This lady confided that she called 
her farm "Hollywood." On her return to California, Mrs. 


Wilcox appropriated that name for the ranch. Presently 
the whole area became known as Hollywood. 

One of the Wilcox neighbors was Paul de Longpre, a 
French artist. He was noted for his oil-studies of local flow- 
ers. Tally-ho parties left Los Angeles for the De Longpre 
gardens, there to sip tea or lemonade and sing songs of 
Brittany. The tally-ho excursions took all day, and perhaps 
are responsible for Hollywood's reputation as a maelstrom 
of vicious conduct. Picnics, followed by a few shot-gun 
weddings, are apt to incite all manner of behind-the-fan 
whispers and slanderous calendar-thumbings. 

Hollywood never had a government of its own. Its un- 
official mayor during the early part of our century was 
B. C. Forbes, a realtor. Messrs. Edwards, De Longpre and 
other civic leaders informally administered the affairs of the 
hamlet. They discharged their functions so well that the 
neighbors were about to reward Mr. Edwards with election 
as their honest-to-goodness mayor, when Los Angeles upped 
and annexed the place. 

The City of the Angels was beset at this time by grow- 
ing pains and a passion for municipal long pants. It suffered 
an unbridled urge to outstrip San Francisco in size, come 
what may. Unreliable historians (jesting, no doubt) say 
that the Fathers were on the point of spread-eagling their 
city, not only to the Pacific Ocean but to the Atlantic as 
well, taking in New York and Baltimore by vive voce dec- 
laration. They actually did get as far as Iowa, when a 


prophet, noted for conservative thought and divine back- 
ing, rose in council to say: 

"We should let bad enough alone." 

Hollywood was an obscure and dusty suburb when the 
film pioneers arrived, some in search of sunshine and others 
for respite from process servers. Patent controversies had 
caused a scarcity of cameras for producers who were not 
members of the new picture trust. A device called the 
Latham Loop, an integral element needed by all cameras to 
feed celluloid bands through the field of exposure, was con- 
trolled by the trust. 

If an unauthorized company produced a camera, by force 
or by strategy, that party had to guard against discovery 
and reprisal. Each photographer had one or more body- 
guards armed with baseball bats. These were commissioned 
to ward off spies who might try to peep inside bootlegged 
boxes or to thwart pirates bent on making off with the 
instruments. Fights and lawsuits were numerous. To escape 
them, or to get more sun, or both, the pioneers moved as 
pioneers always do, westward. 

Southern California was not hospitable to the new indus- 
try of light and shadow. The first solid invasion had been 
that of Colonel William N. Selig of Chicago. He once had 
owned a wagon show, had discovered the Negro comic, 
Bert Williams, and afterward founded the greatest motion- 
picture zoo in the business. The nucleus of this zoo was 


a group of used lions which Colonel Selig employed in 
a picture supposed to reveal President Theodore Roosevelt 
hunting in Africa. On his return from the Dark Continent, 
the President was very much upset by what he called a 
"fake." Colonel Selig, however, smoothed over this bit of 
chicanery and went on his way to more lions and several 
millions of dollars. 

Colonel Selig's Los Angeles debut was in 1908. His com- 
pany arrived to shoot some water scenes for The Count of 
Monte Cristo. Soon thereafter, Colonel Selig filmed In the 
Sultan's Power, the first photoplay to have been made en- 
tirely in California. 

The Selig studio was behind a Chinese laundry at Eighth 
and Hill streets. The director was Francis Boggs, one-time 
star of the stage epic, Why Girls Leave Home. Rob Wag- 
ner, editor of Script, and one of the wisest noodles in Holly- 
wood, believes Boggs would have proved Griffith's only 
rival as a director had not a bullet put him down. Mr. 
Wagner was a near-witness to this, the motion-picture col- 
ony's first murder. 

The day prior to the slaying, Frank, Colonel Selig's Japa- 
nese gardener, was working on a floral "S" planted inside 
a diamond-shaped frame of scarlet blossoms. This botan- 
ical whimsy was in honor of Colonel Selig's expected return 
from the East. On the near-by open-air stage, the company 
was making a Western thriller, with plenty of gun-fire. 

The next day, Colonel Selig arrived to be welcomed with 


toasts and the floral "S." It was a day of broken storms. As 
Rob Wagner got off the street car at the Selig Studio he 
heard a shot. At first he thought it was thunder, or some 
stage-play. Then he saw a lot of people running. Prominent 

among the runners was Mr. S , the hero of many film 

hold-ups and rescue scenes. He was running the fastest of 
anyone, but in a direction away from the studio. 

As Wagner approached, there was another shot. The bullet 
struck Colonel Selig in the arm. The first shot had killed 
Boggs. When asked concerning a motive, the gardener 
pointed toward the stage and said : 

"Too damn much shooting all time. Boom! Boom! All 
day, boom ! Boom ! It make me crazy." 

This homicide worked a hardship in another quarter and 
involved Mr. Hampton Del Ruth, afterward a shining light 
of the Sennett group. Del Ruth had written Monte Crist o 
for Selig and Pelleas et Melisande for Universal, the first 
three-reel pictures made in America. 

Boggs had produced a play of Del Ruth's, Cherchez la 
Femme, and had decided to make it as a picture. No scenarist 
of that time received more than $25 a reel. Boggs had agreed 
to pay Del Ruth $75 a reel ! Furthermore, he would make it 
a four-reel picture. Mr. Boggs was walking toward his office 
to sign Del Ruth's check when the Jap gardener winged him. 

Del Ruth held his head under a water tap to cool it. "Why 
couldn't that Jap have waited another five minutes?" 

Although these were the silent days in the movies, Selig's 


cowboys were hired on their ability to whoop as well as 
ride. The whooping put them in the proper mood. They also 
whooped while off the set and did some shooting at bar fix- 
tures and in the palm-lined lanes. The citizens didn't like 
this racket and were sure the good Colonel Selig had cloven 
hooves and that his men wore tall sombreros to make room 
for horns. The townspeople referred to the studio as a 
"camp." The word "camp" afterward outraged producers 
as they rose to great wealth and began to long for social 
plums. Also, the Angelinos spoke of the picture people as 
the "movie colony," a reproachful term now regarded as 
less debasing. 

So averse to motion-picture folk were the local taxpayers 
that they collected funds for propaganda against the picture 
makers and their hirelings. Several Hollywood kirks owe 
their cornerstones to this worthy campaign. Moreover, when 
the earlier apartment houses began to sprout in a community 
afterward noted for its architectural flatulence, the owners 
riveted signs to their doors, one of which read: 

"No dogs or actors allowed." 

But the King Canutes of Southern California were caught 
in the undertow. The pioneers were pouring in. The second 
company to reach the West Coast was Bison. Director 
Charles K. French ground out one hundred and eighty-five 
pictures between November, 1909, and July, 19 10, an aver- 
age of one photoplay for every day and a half. This was a 


record, comparable perhaps to the mark set by G. M. 
("Broncho Billy" ) Anderson. Anderson, the first actor to 
have his name on a screen, also was author and producer of 
his plays. He made three hundred and seventy-six pictures 
in a like number of consecutive weeks. 

The third motion-picture troupe to invade Los Angeles 
was D. W. Griffith's Biograph unit. That was in January 
of 19 io. Thenceforward the deluge was in full flux from 
East to West, a new form of gold-rush. 

The first picture actually composed and made in Holly- 
wood proper was in 191 1, when Al Christie filmed The Law 
of the Range. Certain disrespectful wags have observed that 
Artist De Longpre died that same year. 

Christie was a director for David Horsley's Nestor Com- 
pany, the first studio opened in Hollywood. It was behind 
a tavern at the corner of Sunset and Gower. Christie subse- 
quently became a producer of comedies and the nearest com- 
petitor Mack Sennett ever had in that field. He erected his 
own studio, and, after the grand opening, went on a tour 
of inspection. He arrived at the workroom of his scenario 

"What you doing ?" asked Christie. 

"Working on a scenario," said the hack. 

Mr. Christie beamed at this evidence of industry. "Do 
you think it will make a good picture?" 

The writer replied sagely : "It always has" 

WESTWARD, HO! HO! 1 1 1 

D. W. Griffith for a long time had wanted to take his 
company to California. His business superiors, however, re- 
garded Fort Lee, New Jersey, as the more economical place 
for location shots. 

They had allowed him two trips to Cuddebackville, in the 
Orange Mountains of New York, and these had been ex- 
citing forays. There Griffith had made The Mended Lute 
and other outdoor dramas. It was there, too, that Griffith 
found it difficult to get sleep, what with Arthur Johnson and 
Mack Sennett singing loudly and long and presiding at 
seances, with ouija-board conferences and table-tipping de- 
bauches. Also at Cuddebackville, Sennett and Johnson had 
alarmed the countryside by hiding in a graveyard adjoining 
the inn to howl at a pair of earnest village lovers. 

It was not until Griffith had tapped the works of Poet Rob- 
ert Browning that his superiors consented to the Califor- 
nia trip. Griffith made Pippa Passes, and, among other rev- 
olutionary departures, introduced a then-sensational lighting 
effect, which showed the dawn floating through Pippa' s win- 

Griffith's Pippa commanded the attention of the press. It 
was the first time that the fourth estate had recognized the 
motion picture as a serious medium of expression. The New 
York Times wrote liberally concerning it in its issue of Oc- 
tober 10, 1909. 

Griffith thereupon asked for California — and got it. 


The Griffith troupe arrived in the land of poinsettias early 
in January. The more affluent members stayed at the new 
Alexandria Hotel, which was to become a rendezvous for 
movie folk. The Griffith actors were allowed two dollars a 
day for expenses. Sennett wanted to reside at the Alexandria, 
even though he had to pawn his diamond ring to do so. The 
Sennett diamond had been to "uncle's" several times, and 
whenever Mamma Sennett saw her boy on the screen with- 
out the stone, she deduced rightly that Mack was hard up 

His passion for the Alexandria was not based upon a de- 
sire to cut a social swath. Nor was it founded on a wish to 
be near the director or his higher-salaried colleagues. What 
fascinated Sennett more than all else were the Alexandria 

Sennett was a confirmed bather. Sometimes he had as 
many as four tubs a day. He said he could think better while 
lying in the bath, soaping, soaking and splashing. When told 
that the ancient Romans were bath-crazy, he said : 

"That explains their success." 

"Maybe," said Pathe Lehrman, "it explains their fall." 

"I hadn't heard of that side," said Sennett. "I was under 
the impression they ran the whole world." 

Sennett insisted that his potential prime minister, Pathe 
Lehrman, also reside at the Alexandria. They barely had 
taken up quarters there when Sennett made for the bath- 
room, to relax for a full hour. 


"When we get set with our own company,' ' Sennett said, 
"I'll install a bathtub five or six times as big as this." 

"Install it where?" 

Mr. Sennett spoke in a matter-of-fact tone. "In my office. 
Near my desk. I'll have a rubbing board, too." 

Pathe thought this a bit eccentric. "It sounds like a gym- 

"A lot of nervous breakdowns," Mr. Sennett said, "come 
from not bathing enough or getting massaged." 

"That reminds me," said Pathe, "Powell is looking bet- 
ter'n ever, strain or no strain. Maybe he won't crack up after 

"Don't let it fool you," said Sennett. "Powell can't worry 
and fret like he does all the time. We gotta keep on our toes 
for the big chance." 

"By the way," said Pathe, "Mary Pickford has been 
boosted to $75 a week." 

Mr. Sennett was rinsing his toes under the faucet. "You're 
talking through your hat. Nobody gets that kind of money." 

"I heard it right from the front," said Pathe. "D. W. 
himself don't deny it." 

Mr. Sennett rose like Venus, dripping. "Hand me that 
towel, Pathe." He began to blot himself thoughtfully. 
"Pathe," he said, "you sure they're paying that kind of 
dough to an actor?" 

"Seventy-five dollars. A small fortune." 


Sennett narrowly missed stepping on the soap. "This 
business has gone completely nuts !" 

Director Powell became increasingly groggy with over- 
work and worry. Sennett bombarded Griffith for a chance 
to direct a picture. He was dreaming of a time when he, 
too, might receive $75 a week. He then no longer would 
have to pawn his diamond periodically. 

It looked as though Griffith would grant Sennett's re- 
quest, inasmuch as Mack had dropped alluring remarks con- 
cerning a story idea, but fate stepped in. Pathe Lehrman took 
ill and went to the hospital. 

Mack visited his protege and was impressed by two things : 
the comeliness of Pathe's nurse and the yellow hue of 
Pathe's face. 

"What's the matter with your pan?" asked Mack. 

"Yellow jaundice," said Pathe. "But I'm getting a good 

Mack reprimanded him. "How can you lay there and rest 
when we got so much work to do? Our chance is right on 
top of us, and you go get sick." 

"I can't help being sick, can I ?" 

"I've never been sick, so I don't know. But just forget 
about rest and think about our story. Maybe I can hold 
Griffith for a while." 

"Is Powell getting dizzy?" 

"Kind of. Anyway, I wish you'd hurry and get well." 


Lehrman's pretty nurse came in and went out again. Sen- 

nett gazed after her wistfully. "Another thing, Pathe, don't 

let any foolish romances come between you and our work. 

It's sacred. . . . What's her name?" 

"Myrtle," said Pathe. "A nice package, eh?" 

Mack studied Pathe's saffron face. "I guess you're safe 

from romances as long as you look like that. Don't die; 

there's so damn much to do." 

On his way out, Mr. Sennett conferred with the nurse. 

He asked if Mr. Lehrman was malingering, and would she 

like to dine with him. She said she would. 

The next day Mack found Pathe in a saffron sulk. "You 

had a relapse?" he asked. 

"I oughtn't to speak to you at all," said Pathe. 
Mack was alarmed. "You got a fever or something?" 
Pathe sat up in bed. He was a self-portrait in yellow. 

"You and your work ! Took the nurse out to dinner, didn't 


"Yes," said Mack, "as I recall it, I did." 

"As you 'recall it' ! God, what a double-crosser !" 

"If you wasn't sick in bed, Pathe, I'd get sore." 

Pathe was in a dither. "You ruined her ! You ruined her, 

and you'll end up by ruining us !" 

This was a very serious charge, as Sennett construed it. 

"Don't be a chump. My mind was on my work all the time. 

I didn't even hold her hand." 


"She told me," said Pathe bitterly. "Everything. Me lay- 
ing here like a forsaken gallstone, and you . . ." 

"She couldn't have told you anything," said Mack. "There 
was nothing to tell." 

"Shut up !" yelled Pathe. "Here Pve been kinda stuck on 
this nurse. I bought beer for her every noon. Two bottles. 
And what do you go and do?" 

"Not a damn thing," said Sennett. 

"Behind my back, too. You take her out and buy cham- 
pagne. She's as cold as a herring to me today." 

"It was just a split of domestic California champagne," 
said Mack. 

"You admit it, then!" said Pathe. "You admit it was 
champagne !" 

The nurse came in, beamed on Mr. Sennett, and said : "Oh, 
I'm so glad to see you again, Mr. Sennett." To Pathe, she 
said sternly: "The doctor says you got to sleep." 

As they passed through the door, the nurse held Mr. Sen- 
nett's arm, and snuggled up to him, saying: "Were you 
serious when you said I was just the type for the movies?" 

Mr. Lehrman groaned. His yellow jowls had turned an 
arsenious green. 

Chapter 9 


SENNETT explored the Glendale geranium fields and 
asked questions of the natives during his first California 
visit. How much was land worth ? By the lot ? By the acre ? 
He inquired concerning rents and leases. One might have 
thought him a budding realtor, so charmingly sly were his 

Although he did not have a dime beyond his Biograph 
salary, Mack already was window-shopping for a studio site. 
He would have money some day. He would be a director, 
and after that a producer — with a huge bathtub in his office 
to symbolize success. 

He was a long-distance planner. To several colleagues he 
appeared mentally slow-moving and morosely ponderous. His 



boiler-maker mannerisms fooled these self-satisfied folk. 
They put him down as a sulker and went about their own 
whirligig business. Mack plodded on and was not discour- 
aged. He had youth and health ; hardships seldom upset that 

He let the others make their snap- judgments and run 
about in circles. He bided his time. It was his nature to view 
problems from many angles, send up trial balloons, enter de- 
bates with himself and reduce complex situations to elemen- 
tary terms. That process exhausted, he consulted the su- 
preme court of his instincts — a course he might well have 
taken in the first place. Sometimes it required days to make 
up his mind — occasionally years. Once convinced, however, 
he moved with the direct, unswerving force of an army tank. 
He never rested or let his aides relax until a job was done. 
He had great singleness of purpose. He made few mistakes 
in his business heyday and never the same one twice. 

He began to strut like a cock when first he saw his name 
on a screen and in letters five feet high. He behaved like an 
Abyssinian monarch, a Lion of Judah, among his retainers, 
but was the first to say that he knew little of dictionaries and 
text books. He admitted freely his cultural limitations. He 
was something of a contradiction, what with his regal didoes 
on the one hand and his frank and spontaneous plea of 
academic ignorance on the other. And through intellectual 
honesty, rather than intellectual training, he escaped being a 
boor and an upstart. 


He was not sulking — as so many thought when he retired 
within his huge shell and kept silent. He was trying to think. 

After being victimized several times, he learned to smell 
a fake a mile away. He particularly mistrusted those prancing 
literati who prated of art while flowing ties tickled their 
whiskers, and egg-stained waistcoats flapped in the breeze. 
He took it for granted that those who sought employment in 
the movies did so primarily to make money. He could not 
believe that anyone would enter an industry purely to lead 
lost causes or die at last ditches. 

The written word awed but did not frighten him. He 
thought in terms of photographic action. He refused stead- 
fastly to use manuscripts for any of his productions. In his 
opinion, any tale unable to survive the tricks of an author's 
memory was not fit to be photographed. He held that pic- 
torial action, like music, is of itself a universal language, 
one designed to address the eye, just as music addresses the 
ear. If either medium got past eye or ear, and into the soul, 
no harm was done. 

He learned the advantage of saying "No." A negative 
can be salvaged more easily than an affirmative in so many of 
life's affairs. He also knew how to look before he leaped. 
When his lieutenants proposed an idea, he seldom said: 
"That's it," or, "That ain't it," but: "I'll let you know 

Once, it is said, a friend asked him: "Think it'll rain 
before night?" 


Three hours later a drizzle set in, and Mack replied : "I 
wouldn't be surprised." 

As he stood among the vacant lots of Glendale, the seeds 
of conquest were sprouting within his tenacious will. In 
fancy he saw himself surrounded by harem-like walls, with 
many cameras whizzing on several stages. He imagined 
himself seated in a projection room to view the mirth-pro- 
voking products of his empire. A King of Comedy! When 
he laughed, a million subjects would laugh. 

As he ambled about the Glendale terrain, he suddenly felt 
upset. It dawned upon him quite unexpectedly that he had 
tremors of the stomach. It couldn't be hunger; he had put 
away a big steak with onions but an hour ago at the Alex- 
andria. What an eerie flutter ! Could it be love ? 

He had experienced, in his time, several romantic mo- 
ments, but they had glided away like swan boats on a park 
lagoon. He remembered his careful analyses of the love 
affairs of others; the trials of the late Amos Cabot; the trib- 
ulations of Miss Lucile Howey and her razor-minded agent, 
Mr. Volpi; Pathe Lehrman and the leap for life across the 
apartment court — and lately the champagne joust with 
Pathe's buxom nurse. But all these adventures provided 
scanty clues as to how a man should know definitely when 
true love knocked at the heart's door. 

Perhaps, also, he recalled with a feeling of confusion an 
alleged incident of his burlesque days, when he was the hind 


legs of a horse. It is said that he had been seized by an 
intense fit of puppy love when he saw the leading lady in 
tights. A report — which he will not confirm — had it that he 
proposed to this lady one evening. In his dreamy state, he 
forgot that he was still clad in the horse's leggings. 

The prima donna was represented as having laughed out 
loud. "My Gawd, kid! I'd as lief marry a mounted cop's 

A day was to come when he would cause her to remem- 
ber that remark. Slow to make up his mind, he was corre- 
spondingly slow to forget. 

As he turned homeward to the Alexandria, Sennett tried 
to shake his emotional symptoms. He began to count his 
blessings. He remarked to himself that he was healthy, well 
clothed, active and ambitious. Then why that strange flurry 
within his chest? It must be love. 

It was characteristic that this sentimental dawn should 
wait until he was absent nearly three months, and separated 
by three thousand miles from his inspirational source. He 
decided to examine his sad condition minutely. He wanted 
to be sure. 

Arrived at the Alexandria, he prepared to write a letter 
to the girl. Her name was Mabel Normand. He had met 
her at the Biograph studios in New York. As he scribbled 
bravely, he thought of the difference in their ages. He was 
nearing thirty. She was barely sixteen. He tore up the letter. 

He began another letter. He thought of arguments in 


favor of his suit. Mabel was an Irish Catholic. So was he. 
He got as far as page two of this letter, when he remem- 
bered that his career came first. Then he tore up the second 

For hours he sat there, pondering, writing, tearing up 
letters, only to start fresh ones. Finally he scanned the fif- 
teenth effort carefully and wished, for once, that he wore a 
flowing tie and — if need be — had egg-stains on a vest that 
flapped in the breeze. 

Mabel Normand was born in Boston, November 10, 1894. 
She attended St. Mary's Convent at Northwest Point, Mas- 
sachusetts. At the age of fourteen she moved with her 
parents to Staten Island, New York. She was five feet four 
inches tall, weighed one hundred and twenty pounds, could 
swim, dive, ride, shoot, and played only with boys. Girls 
were too frail ; they bored her. She had dark hair and laugh- 
ing brown eyes. She was an arrant tomboy and a- jokester un- 
able to excuse dignity, even that of an archbishop's horse. 

Mabel's heart was big and her spirit truly brave. She was 
in love with life, nor did she complain in the bitter after 
years when life, like many other sweethearts, proved un- 

At fifteen Mabel was artist's model for Charles Dana 
Gibson, James Montgomery Flagg, Penhryn Stanlaws and 
other magazine illustrators. She was a friend of Alice Joyce 


and Olive Thomas, models who were to become motion- 
picture stars. 

She had been posing at fashion shows when a photogra- 
pher recommended her to J. Stuart Blackton of Vitagraph 
as "the prettiest girl in New York." She went to the Flat- 
bush studio and began her career in pictures. 

Mabel worked for Vitagraph during one winter. She made 
a short, Over the Garden Wall, with Maurice Costello, but 
the church-spires of Brooklyn became a background too 
gloomy for this lively girl. She tripped across the bridge to 
work for D. W. Griffith at a salary of $25 a week. 

Certain commentators believe that, had Mabel remained 
permanently under the Griffith aegis and gone in for the 
more solemn portrayals of emotion, she would have become 
the foremost of all women film stars. Others, who think she 
was the foremost of women film stars, do not believe that 
Griffith would have helped her at all. 

Great as he was, Griffith insisted on doing the thinking 
for his people. He was a master mind, of the John McGraw 
order — that baseball Napoleon who used to signal from the 
dugout how, when and where each ball was to be pitched. 
And, while Griffith's thinking no doubt was the best, and 
possibly the last, thinking known to the motion-picture in- 
dustry, the actors were multiple reflections of Director 

Mabel Normand was no reflector. She was an innate 
mimic, but could not imitate mental processes. Possibly she 


was an authentic genius. Perhaps Isadora Duncan was the 
only other woman of our time to possess beauty, charm, abil- 
ity, soul and courage the equal of Mabel's. And, like the 
gallant Isadora, Mabel walked with tragedy. 

Mabel had yet another outstanding quality — a Rabelaisian 
laughter and bludgeoning wit. This quality did not soften the 
attacks when scandal linked her to events not of her mak- 
ing. If there is one thing that the self -anointed nincompoops 
of censorship cannot bear, it is laughter. Mirth is not in 
their prune-whip brains. Gaiety is not in their flaccid loins. 
Humor does not flow in their macaroni arteries. They do not 
understand the spring freshets of laughter, and therefore 
fear it as a deluge. Just why the miracle of forthright laugh- 
ter should affront the bilious devotees of scrub-saints for- 
ever mystified Mabel Normand. 

Sennett sealed the envelope and put a stamp on his letter 
to Mabel. "Yes," he thought, "she will grow up to be a fine 

The next California invasion by the Griffith company was 
on an ambitious scale. Biograph sent a second troupe along, 
with Director Powell in charge of the junior invaders. Bet- 
ter stages, better dressing rooms a.nd more money for every- 
one were elements that made this stay a happy one. 

Sennett had the pleasure of playing several times opposite 
Mabel. Sometimes he was a Mexican Romeo with a guitar. 


Again he was a rube with a carpetbag — or was a police- 

"Great Scott!" he said to Mabel. "Policemen are the most 
interesting thing on the screen. When I get going, I'll have 
more policemen than they got in Scotland Yard." 

Sennett was not a "gabby" fellow when in the company of 
women. But, curiously enough, he found himself garrulous 
and expansive with Mabel. She knew how to handle him. 
She fought with him. He seemed to like resistance. It fo- 
cused his mind. 

It now was generally accepted that Sennett was in love. 
Whether Mabel loved him, none could say at this time. 
Certain members of the troupe thought she liked Pathe 
Lehrman better, but Sennett did not appear to take notice. 

He was solicitous of Mabel's welfare. Her impulsiveness 
worried him sometimes, and he undertook to lecture her on 
morals and manners. She would respond with embarrassing 
shouts of : "Aunt Prue !" 

Mrs. Charlotte Pickford had taken an interest in Mabel 
and looked out for her during the Biograph initiation. Mabel 
had a deep love for this brave and gracious mother of Mary 
Pickford. Sennett, also, was an admirer of Mrs. Pickford, 
a woman so unlike the majority of "stage-mothers," who 
sell their daughters down the celluloid river and yell for 
the police if the drawn-and-quartered lassies keep any time 
or money for themselves. 


Mabel was not a pampered star. Few were in those pioneer 
days. Even at her zenith, Mabel Normand would not have 
a "double" for her hazardous rides, leaps or falls. One day 
she had to jump twenty-two times from a boat-deck into a 
surging sea before the scene was photographed properly. She 
went home to lie awake all night, her head aching, her ears 
bleeding. When a doctor advised her not to take chances 
with her health and safety, she said: 

"What in hell's the difference, if it makes a lot of people 

She was on location the next day, to be dragged by a 
horse through the mud of a newly drained lake. After she 
had washed up and put on clean clothes, she was interviewed 
by a lady, who said : 

"I suppose the hardships of motion-picture actresses are 
overestimated ?" 

Mabel was too tired to explain. "Yes," she said. "It's an 
exceedingly monotonous life." 

On this second trip to California, Mack heard that two 
"big executives" were in town. They were Adam Kessel and 
Charles O. Bauman, former bookmakers at Sheepshead Bay 
race-course. Their rise as picture moguls had been amazing. 

Before his advent to the films, Kessel had been a fairly 
successful collector of horse-players' money. His sheet- 
writer, Bauman, had been no slouch at handling odds. One 
day Governor Charles Evans Hughes twiddled his famous 


whiskers and signed a bill to make it unlawful to bet on 
ponies in New York State. 

Unhappily, Messrs. Kessel and Bauman had just com- 
pleted a disastrous week with the public. They felt it would 
do no harm if they continued in business, regardless of 
Governor Hughes, with a little surreptitious bookmaking. 
The heavy hand of John Law descended on the Kessel shoul- 
der. He decided to retire from turf and field, but with very 
little ready cash. 

While moaning about fate, Kessel suddenly remembered a 
man named Charlie Streimer, to whom he had lent $2,500. 
He called to find Mr. Streimer among a lot of flat, round 

"What's these?" asked Mr. Kessel. 

"They're films," said Charlie. 
'What's that? Herring?" 

'Kind of," said Charlie, "only they're celluloid. Motion 

"Meaning what?" 

"Movies. Actors that make faces on theater screens. I'm in 
the exchange business. It's what they call the 'middleman.' " 

"You make real money out of them cans?" 

Charlie picked up a can and posed like a discus thrower. 
"I'm doing O.K. Tell you what — I'll pay what I owe you 
or cut you in as an exchange man yourself." 

All respectable race-track people have hunches. Kessel 
had one now. "I think I'll take a flier," he said. 


He took a flier, and with Bauman as partner became so 
successful that competitors tried to crowd him out of the 
motion-picture paddock. But Kessel was a hard man to 
crowd. When members of the regular group refused to let 
him have licensed film, Kessel said : 

"We'll produce our own then." 

He got a camera (one of the "bootleg" variety) and began 
to take his own pictures on sidewalks and up alleys. When 
his concern grew big enough to need a name, Kessel chris- 
tened it in honor of the majestic buffalo on the United States 

"That's our trade-mark," he told Bauman. "Bison. We'll 
call our company 'Bison.' " 

To make an impression on Kessel and Bauman, Sennett 
rented a tuxedo and took to lounging in the lobby of the 
Alexandria. Although he liked chewing-tobacco better than 
any other form of the weed, he began to invest in pompous 

"Be careful not to pull any cute tricks while I'm in the 
lobby," he warned Mabel. "I'm angling for some big back- 

He was unable, however, to fascinate Kessel and Bau- 
man. They said vaguely that they would meet him "some 
time" in New York. They were true picture executives — not 
interested in unproven talent. 

Mack was rather disconsolate, but brightened one day 


when Pathe Lehrman burst into the Sennett room with news. 

"Powell has cracked — finally I" said Pathe. "Caved in." 

Mack received this announcement with superior calm. "It 
happened like I forecasted," he said. 

Director Powell turned over his megaphone with the sad 
majesty of a defeated general surrendering his sword. Sen- 
nett became a director, with the stipulation that he must 
serve as an actor as well. 

He was ready to saddle and ride his skyrocket now. 

Sennett returned to New York with Lehrman and made 
a picture called Comrades, the story of two tramps. Jack 
Dillon was one of the tramps — Sennett the other. The re- 
lease demonstrated that the new director's work had an au- 
thoritative, rugged, moving quality ; that Sennett had a keen 
sense of timing and of pace, and the ability to concoct sure- 
fire entertainment. 

Sennett received the usual congratulations from his em- 
ployers. When he asked for a raise, he received the usual wet 
blankets. However, he managed to levy upon his bosses for 
fifty dollars a week. 

"And now," he said to Pathe, "we've got to hit these pic- 
tures right on the nose every time. It's hard to make a suc- 
cess. It's twice as hard to stay successful." 

Mack's mother had deserted Connecticut and gone home 
to Canada. Sennett now could afford to bring her on a visit 


to New York. She arrived to find him in love, and thor- 
oughly approved of Mabel. They had a great time together. 
The three went to Coney Island, where Mack announced that 
he would like to make a picture of that resort. 

"I'm going into business for myself soon, Mamma," he 
said. "Because I'm getting trimmed where I am." 

"It isn't everyone that makes fifty dollars a week," said 

"It'll be chicken feed before long, Mamma. Just wait." 

Mack said he was going to find out actually how much 
money his pictures were earning for Biograph. "They keep 
stalling me," he said. "It's hard to get the dope, because our 
pictures all sell in a bunch and at ten cents a foot. But I'm 
going to find out even if I have to break into the bookkeep- 
ing department some night." 

"Don't let them cheat you, Mike," said Mamma, "but 
don't let them shoot you for a burglar, either." 

Several days elapsed, and it came time to put Mamma on 
a train. "Did you get a look at the books?" she asked. 

"I did, Mamma," said Sennett. "At first it was a puzzle, 
but I happened on something that showed just where I stand. 
It was in the accounts with English firms. They don't buy 
their pictures by the foot. They buy only the ones that are 
in demand and they pay for them by the picture." 

"I'm sorry you looked, then," said Mamma. "The English 
never liked the Irish, and they're just prejudiced against 


"No, Mamma," said Sennett. "You don't understand." 

"I've understood the English since I was a little girl, Mike. 
They're just prejudiced." 

Sennett put her aboard the train. "Mamma, the books 
showed that my pictures in England are next to Griffith's in 
popularity and next to his in price." 

She waved good-bye. "Don't be fooled, Mike. And don't 
believe a word you read in them English books. Good-bye, 
my son." 

After his mother had gone, he went to dinner with Mabel. 
He told her of his raid upon the books and his pleasurable 
discovery. "I'm even better than I thought," he said. 

"Yes/" said Mabel. "You're even better than / thought." 

Kessel and Bauman were impressed by the Sennett pic- 
tures, particularly Comrades. They now were making sorties 
on other companies, to seize stars and directors. Thomas H. 
Ince was one of the new directors in Bison's fold. They made 
an appointment with Sennett at Luchow's Restaurant, and 
entered an agreement to finance him. 

Kessel and Bauman were to put up fifteen hundred dollars 
as a trial budget for three pictures of one reel each. If Sen- 
nett made good, Kessel and Bauman would exercise an op- 
tion on his services. He then would have a share in the profits 
and a salary of one hundred dollars a week. 

"Gentlemen," said Sennett, "you are rich men. Well, you'll 
both be a lot richer this time next year. And so will I." 


Mr. Kessel was about to leave for Philadelphia on busi- 
ness. As he talked to Sennett, he consulted a Pennsylvania 
Railroad time-table. Sennett glanced at the time-table and 
had an inspiration. 

"I've got a trade-mark for our company," he said. 

"What is it?" asked Mr. Kessel and Mr. Bauman simul- 

Mack pointed at the trade-mark of the Pennsylvania Rail- 
road. "Look at that keystone. If it's good enough for a big 
company like that, it ought to be good enough for us. Key- 

This was the start of the famous Keystone Comedy Com- 
pany, noted for its policemen, custard pies (although they 
generally were blackberry, for photographic reasons) and 
bathing beauties. 

Chapter 10 


SENNETT took Mabel Normand and Pathe Lehrman to 
Keystone and began to enlist other talent. Ford Sterling 
and Fred Mace, comedians of the violently muscular school, 
were among the recruits. 

Sterling looked like a congenital chief of police — a recom- 
mendation beyond cavil. Reared on Wisconsin kraut and 
wieners, Sterling had joined Robinson's circus at the age of 
twelve as "Keno, the Boy Clown." Afterward he had toured 
the hay, grain and oat capitals with a theatrical troupe, whose 
artistic assets were Uncle Tom's Cabin and Julius Cczsar. 

By the time Sennett had obtained a camera and laid out 
moneys for cast and other elements of production, he found 
his budget alarmingly low. As a measure of economy, he 



used his apartment as a rehearsal hall. It was also his office. 

He found another means of retrenchment when a gaunt 
and sallow gentleman with eyes like chips of coal called upon 
him. This personage introduced himself as Sergei Androv, a 
camera man late of Russia. He impressed Sennett by his 
Continental manners, a nimble monocle and a brave offer to 
work "on spec." That is, if he made good in photographing 
the first three pictures of the Sennett program, Sergei was 
to get seventy-five dollars. 

"If I fail . . ." Sergei started to say. 

Mack raised a right hand toward his apartment ceiling, as 
though making a vow to heaven. "Nobody's going to fail. It 
ain't in the cards." 

After the first day of rehearsal — a* session marred by com- 
plaints of neighbors, who thought Sennett had delirium tre- 
mens and was being subdued by male nurses — it occurred to 
Mack to ask Sergei a question or two. 

"By the way," Mack said, "you sure you know how to 
handle a movie camera?" 

Sergei gave one of those smiles of ennui designed to put 
Americans in their place. "I happen to have been official 
photographer at the court of His Imperial Majesty, Tsar 
Nicholas." Sergei stiffened, clicked his heels, saluted and 
looked patriotically unhappy. "May God save the Little 

"Well," said Sennett, "I guess His Honor, Nicholas, 
wouldn't hire no bums. But I want God to save us, too. Was 


the pictures you took of him in motion, or was they stills?" 

Sergei became as stiff as a frozen eel and again clicked his 
boots. "Perhaps Monsieur thinks I am an impostor I" 

The prospect of losing a distinguished but cheap expert 
frightened Mack. "No offense, brother. But I can't afford to 
take chances.' ' 

A frost-bitten smile, suggestive of wolf -fights on the 
steppes, made Sergei look very menacing. "His Imperial 
Majesty . . ." He saluted again. "The Tsar of all the Rus- 
sias was not afraid to take chances. In Russia we know no 

"It ain't a question of bravery," Sennett said. "It's a mat- 
ter of coffee and doughnuts. Anyway, the Tsar didn't have 
his whole damn future wrapped up in tin cans. I hope you 
ain't offended." 

Sergei flipped his monocle. "I am a lancer and a gentle- 

"Lancer!" said Sennett. "Well, why didn't you tell me 
that in the first place? Here's the camera and some cans of 
film. Be at the Fort Lee ferry at eight o'clock in the morn- 

Sennett worked like a horse at an oat-bag. Between re- 
hearsals and trips to Fort Lee, the Keystone head visited the 
film laboratory to arrange for development of his pictures. 
The laboratory people said they had so much work on hand 


for the big companies that they couldn't promise delivery on 
a set schedule. 

"You'll have to wait your turn," said the laboratory man- 

"I'm in a terrible rush," Sennett explained. 

"You'll have to wait. Our regular customers have prefer- 
ence — Biograph, Vitagraph and Kalem. Can't help it." 

Mack went ahead with his shooting at Fort Lee. He had 
no regulation sets, but put his troupe into action whenever 
he came upon a field or vacant lot. Once the entire company 
was run off a farm by the proprietor and his dogs. During 
the retreat, Mack begged Sergei to 'keep cranking" so as to 
get "animal atmosphere" into the picture. 

"This I cannot do," Sergei explained, while running. 

Sennett implored the lancer. "I'll go back and chuck bricks 
if you'll get set up and crank the dogs chasing us." 

"You do not understand," said Sergei. "They are Japanese 
dogs, and my people do not like Japan." 

Several times during the Fort Lee excursions, Sennett was 
worried about Sergei's technique. The Russian never sug- 
gested re-takes or admitted that anything was out of range. 
Once Mack was sure that he and Sterling had rolled com- 
pletely out of focus and to the side of the camera. 

"Hadn't we better shoot it over?" asked Mack. 

"Monsieur Sennett," said Sergei rather sadly, "the Tsar 
. . ." and he saluted, "the Tsar honored me by calling me 

f ' / 

'^/tik ■PSH*" ■ 

H^h^ ^"^i^- »k^t Xr '* 

■ 1 

77/ r A7//# changed his crown for a derby hat and his royal 

countenance for the clown's grin. Beside him, Mabel Nor- 

mand and, two rows back, strangled by a high collar, Pathe 

Lehrman in an early Keystone Comedy. 


'thou' and having his samovar in my company. Yet never 
once in all the time I took pictures at the Winter Palace did 
he make suggestions while I worked." 

Sennett thought about this phase of royal reticence. 
"That's O.K., too, but while you was cranking, was His 
Honor getting socked with a broom-handle and turning 
handsprings ?" 

"He is a most dignified sovereign," said Sergei, who 
added, for some reason known only to himself : "And he is 
terribly in love with the Tsarina." 

"I'll admit that," said Sennett, "but what do you say we 
put down some markers to separate the foreground from 
the background? Then we'll all know where we are at." 

"Monsieur," said Sergei, "I am a Russian artist. In our 
land, we do not measure with artificial aids. We strive for 
mood. Measurements would be disastrous and kill our 

Mack sighed and continued his direction. At the close 
of the day he took his second can of film to the laboratory. 

"Did you print up the first reel?" he asked. 

The manager shook his head. "No. A lot of Biograph 
work come in and we're up to our necks. You'll just have to 

While Mack was making the third reel in the wilds of 
Fort Lee, he thought Sergei was cranking the camera at the 
wrong tempo. He went over to the lancer and asked : "Ser- 


gei, I don't want to butt in, but ain't you turning that crank 
kinda slow?" 

Sergei was in a condescending humor today — perhaps be- 
cause Mack had advanced him ten dollars. "You Americans 
are so impatient," said the lancer. "Everywhere I go, I see 
and hear nothing but 'Speed ! Speed ! Speed !' In Europe we 
take things more moderately and live longer." 

"To hell with that! Here we're on our third picture and 
I don't know a thing about the two we've made. They're 
still in the cans. All I know is, if anything goes wrong, I'm in 
the can, too." 

Sergei breathed on his monocle and polished it with his 
necktie. "I shall have so many droll tales to tell my fellow 
officers when I return to my regiment." 

Mack had a clairvoyant feeling of defeat. "Sergei," he 
said, "if these pictures flop, I don't think you'll ever return 
to Russia." 

Sennett and his troupe finished the third picture. Mack 
took the can of film to the laboratory. The manager was 
more impolite than ever. 

"Now look here, Sennett," he said, "who in hell are you 
alongside Biograph and Kalem ? You come in here and throw 
your piddling films at us like you was God hisself. Lemme 
tell you something, we'll develop your films and print 'em 
as soon as we get a chance and not before. See?" 

Sennett held his temper. He had too much at stake to risk 
losing more time than was necessary. He left the laboratory 


and went to call on his old friend and former chief, D. W. 

Griffith agreed to put in a hastening word at the labora- 
tory. He also consented to let Mack use the Biograph pro- 
jection room when his films were ready. 

'That's mighty big of you," Mack said. "I won't for- 
get it." 

"Glad to do it, Mack," said Griffith. "And I'd like to see 
your pictures when you get ready to run them." 

Mack was elated. "You don't mean that! Tell you what. 
We'll have a private showing, and I want you to bring your 
people in to see them. I've got some new effects that'll knock 
you cold." 

Sennett's pockets were empty, but he planned a big dinner 
at Mouquin's famous restaurant for the night of the pre- 
view. He had to pawn his diamond ring again, but it was in 
a good cause. 

Camera-man Sergei heard of the big dinner and asked if 
he might bring a few relatives and close friends. Sennett 
inquired how many there were. 

Sergei did some casting up and said: "I'd like to bring 
my two aunts and uncles, too, but I do not wish to pre- 

"Well, I asked you, how many are there?" 

"Also," said Sergei, "my nephews would enjoy it so 
much. They are strangers in a strange land." 


"For God's sake, how many?" 

"Little Dmitri is ill with tonsils; so, without Dmitri, it 
would be an even twenty-two." 

"Good God !" said Sennett. "So that's the 'regiment' you 
was talking about ! No. Just come alone." 

"As you say," said Sergei. "We Russians have deep un- 

The laboratory management at last reported Mack's films 
ready for delivery. He was overjoyed. However, when he 
called, the manager refused to hand over the three tin cans 
until paid in cash. 

"This is not a charity bazaar," he said. "Pay up, or we'll 
call it no dice. See?" 

Sennett had not laid aside any money for film-develop- 
ment. He had to seek out his backers, Kessel and Bauman, 
for the extra sum. He explained his call by saying he wanted 
his sponsors to attend the pre-view at the Biograph projec- 
tion room, and that they were to be guests of honor at the 
Mouquin dinner. On rising to go, he broached the matter of 
the laboratory fee and said : 

"It slipped my mind, and my bank is closed this late in 
the afternoon." 

He made the "touch" and hastened again to the laboratory. 
He took his films home and hid them beneath his mattress. 
He sat up all night to watch out for possible fire or theft. 


The next day he made great preparations for the banquet 
and supervised the decoration of one of Mouquin's dining- 
rooms. He kept the films in a valise and close beside him all 
the time. 

Toward evening he and his troupe gathered at the Bio- 
graph projection room. His old colleagues congratulated him 
in advance on his splendid work. Newcomers looked at him 
enviously and addressed him as "Mr." Sennett. He tried to 
bear these honors lightly, as becomes a successful man of 
the world. 

Griffith was looking at some rushes, scenes taken the day 
before, and this held up the Sennett showing for half an 
hour. Finally Griffith was done with his inspection and the 
pre-view audience seated themselves on the kitchen chairs 
of the stuffy room. 

Messrs. Kessel and Bauman occupied seats in the front 
row and beside Griffith and Sennett. Also present were the 
Pickfords, Mary, her mother, Sister Lottie and Brother Jack. 
The Gish girls, Lillian and Dorothy, Blanche Sweet and 
others were there. 

Sennett invited Camera-man Sergei to sit behind him, but 
the lancer said : "No, I am easily oppressed by a dark room. 
So I sit near the door at the back." 

Mack was swelled up and very happy. It was der Tag. He 
thought the operator was taking a long time to thread the 
projection machine, but remembered that he now was an 
honored guest and should not voice a criticism. At last there 


came a whirring like the winging of bats in a cow -barn. 
Then a shaft of light. Then flash! flicker! flash! 

No one spoke for a moment. Sennett was on his feet, and, 
ladies or not, began to call upon the Deity. "Operator!" he 
thundered in his finest and loudest bass. "What in God's 
name is wrong with you ?" 

The operator replied : "Nothin's wrong wid me, feller. It's 
your damn no-good film that's on the blink." 

"You're not running it at normal speed," said Sennett. 
"Maybe I should come up there and show you how to do it." 

This sarcasm brought the reply: "No. It's me that ought 
to show you how to make pictures." 

Mr. Griffith intervened. "Charles !" he said. "Charles !" 

These two barrels from the Master settled Charles. 

"Now try it again at normal speed," said Sennett, "and 
we can see something besides skyrockets." 

The operator did as he was told. It was worse than ever. 
Nothing but huge fire-flies, pole-vaulting. Not a trace of 
human activity on the screen, only a leaping blur. 

Mr. Kessel stirred painfully. "What's the matter, Mack?" 

Sennett knew what was wrong now. Sergei! The slow 
turning of the camera-crank at Fort Lee had caused the 
trouble! Pictures taken at sub-normal speed project at ab- 
normal speed. 

"Take 'em off and don't show the others !" Sennett yelled 
to Charlie. 


He then looked about for Sergei. He intended to throttle 
the lancer. But Sergei had gone. 

It was a very mournful dinner party at Mouquin's. And, 
at the close, Mr. Sennett made a short speech. 

"Gentlemen, I had a tough break with these films, and to 
tell the truth, it's because I was a sap. Like a lot of other 
people do, I fell for a monocle and a gift of gab. I'm not go- 
ing to quit making pictures, because I wouldn't know how to 
quit. The only thing I am quitting is Russian camera men. 
From now on Americans will turn my cameras, and if pos- 
sible, they'll be Irishmen." 

Kessel and Bauman sipped Mack's champagne and decided 
to back him further. At least he was honest with himself. 
They told him not to worry about money; they had plenty 
of it. 

Mack redeemed his diamond and made nine shorts, the 
first of which was called Cohen at Coney Island. Its release, 
September 13, 1912, justified the faith of Kessel and 
Bauman in Sennett's ability. They agreed to let him go to 
California and open a studio there. In Sennett's California 
party were Pathe Lehrman, Mabel Normand, Ford Sterling 
and Fred Mace. 

Sennett decided to have a Turkish bath the night before 
his departure. He went to Fleishman's, took half an hour of 
dry heat, then a salt rub, half an hour of steam, and then re- 
tired to a private room for a special oil-massage. 


The masseur entered. It was none other than Sergei An- 
drov. Mack and Sergei recognized each other simultaneously. 
Sergei seemed paralyzed, unable to run. Sennett rose from 
the rubbing board to say : 

"You're not going to rub me, my friend." 

"Are you going to call the police ?" 

"No," said Mack. "Not if you tell me honestly just why 
you cranked that camera so slow." 

"Monsieur Sennett, I felt so horrible I would have killed 
myself honorably, but I could not afford the pistol. I cried 
and cried all night." 

"You cried!" yelled Mack. "Damn it! I died. Now, if you 
don't want to get pinched, tell me why you cranked so slow ?" 

"My intentions were honest. I heard you did not have 
much money, that you were trying to economize. So I turned 
the crank slow to save film" 

Mack sank back on the rubbing board. 

Chapter 1 1 


KESSEL and Bauman had sent Thomas H. Ince to the 
Los Angeles suburbs several months before Mack Sen- 
nett arrived to put the Keystone in the arch of comedy. 

Ince, former stock actor, was the son of John E. and Irma 
Ince, popular stage players of the late nineteenth century. 
Mr. Ince forsook the proscenium to portray villains in Uncle 
Carl Laemmle's Imp pictures. From there he moved to Bio- 
graph and emerged a comic. He then returned to Imp to 
direct Little Nell's Tobacco, the plot of which has been de- 
voured by the moths. Uncle Carl raided Biograph to capture 
Mary Pickford, and selected Ince to direct her and her secret 
fiance, Owen Moore, in Their First Misunderstanding. 
When word spread that Kessel and Bauman were out to 



seize talent, Ince borrowed a diamond ring and called upon 
the former turf experts. He wanted very much to be seized. 
The ex-layers of the Sheepshead Bay betting-ring admired 
Ince's diamond and promptly offered him $100 a week. 

Mr. Ince was not prepared for this immense bid. He suf- 
fered an immediate and complete vocal paralysis. The quon- 
dam guessers of equine performance mistook the Ince 
reticence for artistic scorn. Whereupon they sweetened the 

'Tell you what/' said Brother Kessel, "we'll make it $125 
a week and a ten-per-cent cut in the Keystone company. 
What say?" 

The Ince larynx became even more numb ; a sort of death- 
rattle set in. The diamond ring bobbled on a palsied hand. 
The promoters now were convinced they had offended their 
sensitive caller. 

Mr. Bauman came to the rescue. "Let's make it an even 
$150 a week, plus the Keystone ten per cent. Huh?" 

By dint of magnificent will-power, Mr. Ince overcame his 
laryngeal impotence and managed to say: "I'll have to think 
it over." 

He wrote his acceptance next day in a note composed at a 
saloon, whence he had gone to minister to his throat and 
to recover from the shock. 

When called upon to suggest a program, Ince recom- 
mended a series of thrillers, Western pictures with high- 
geared action and a plethora of guns and horses. The Ince 


backers agreed to this policy and despatched the new direc- 
tor to the bucolic acres of Edendale, Los Angeles, where the 
ill-kempt Bison studio lay, two blocks from the plant of 
Colonel Selig's floral diamond and yowling lions. 

Ince made a one-reel picture, The New Cook, then bur- 
geoned with a rousing Dead-eye Dick opus, War on the 
Plains. The latter production went over with a bang, and 
Ince decided to look for wider battlefields than the Edendale 
cow pasture, with its dilapidated shanties and rickety stage. 

Colonel Selig meanwhile was developing Tom Mix, cow- 
boy and United States marshal, into a star, who, by 1925, 
would command a salary of $17,000 a week. Ince wanted to 
find a star the equal of Mix, but did not succeed until 1914, 
when he brought William S. Hart from the legitimate stage 
{Trail of the Lonesome Pine) to do Two-Gun Hicks. Hart 
soon thereafter surpassed all other screen bad men with 
hearts of gold. 

Ince went in quest of mountain scenery as background for 
his next spectacle. He led his troupe to Santa Monica Can- 
yon. En route thither, he saw a picturesque caravan, with 
long-horned cattle, curvetting horses, covered wagons and 
gaudy cowboys moving along the gully. He set up his cam- 
eras with showmanlike haste and began shooting extem- 
poraneously — or, "off the cuff." 

The outfit Ince saw and photographed was the famous 
Miller Brothers' 101 Ranch Show. It was taking up winter 
quarters in the canyon. Ince was impressed. He entered nego- 


tiations with the owners. He found that he could hire this 
entire show for $2,100 a week, provided he guarantee a 
year's work. This seemed a tremendous and costly proposi- 
tion, but Ince wired his backers, urging them to accept. That 
telegram is historic. It employed for the first time in movie 
history the adjective now used so extensively by producers 
when their pictures are fair-to-middling — "Colossal !" 

Kessel and Bauman committed themselves to the Miller 
Brothers' contract — till then the biggest financial plunge 
made by the cinema. They authorized Ince to lease an eight- 
een-thousand-acre ranch on the shores of the Pacific beyond 
Santa Monica. That tract became Inceville, most famous of 
early picture plants. There Mr. Ince made his first Bison 101 
Ranch picture, Across the Plains. It was an epic of arrows, 
powder, blood and just enough romantic honey to please 
America's devotees of mixed wrestling bouts. 

Ince abandoned the Edendale property. Its nigger-town 
hovels were bequeathed to Sennett and his merry men. The 
latter were delayed in New York to await the outcome of a 
knock-down-and-drag-out feud between the forces of Kes- 
sel and Bauman and those of Uncle Carl Laemmle. That 
fight reached the sawed-off shot-gun denouement in Los An- 
geles and the riot-call stage in New York. 

Once Ince had begun to click with Deadwood Coach 
drama, Uncle Carl suggested that Kessel and Bauman pool 
their 101 Bison releases with his Imp features under the 


banner of the Universal Film Manufacturing Company. The 
proposition was accepted. 

Ince soon afterward filed a report with his chiefs, belit- 
tling the Laemmle assets. 

"All they've got to offer," he told Kessel and Bauman, "is 
an anemic studio at Gower and Hollywood Boulevard. 
They're trying to grab off our great canyon for Western 
stuff and help themselves to all our fine wardrobe and equip- 

Kessel and Bauman withdrew from the Universal board 
at its second meeting. Epithets sailed through the air. Law- 
suits charging breach of contract were brought by Universal. 
Uncle Carl sent strong-arms down to the canyon to seize the 
place. Mr. Ince posted guards, armed with sawed-off shot- 
guns, while he went ahead with his blood-and-thunder epics 
for the screen. To impress intruders, Ince wheeled out a 
Civil War trench-mortar, stuffed it with iron-confetti, and 
threatened to touch it off. He fortified himself with a pistol 
said to have belonged to General Sheridan. 

Laemmle's bravos deployed in a counter-movement on the 
almost defunct Edendale premises, where fist-fights and a 
bit of gunfire ensued. One man (an innocent bystander, of 
course) got a lead capsule in his kidney. The storm troops 
from Fort Laemmle opened the old Bison safe at Edendale 
but found nothing concealed except a flask of spirit-gum and 
some wisps of hair crepe for false whiskers. 

There were fights in New York, also, between the Laemmle 


and Kessel and Bauman interests. A riot on June 28, 191 2, 
brought the Manhattan gendarmes to No. 251 West 
Nineteenth street, the offices of the former turfmen. Brass 
knuckles were no mere ornaments. 

Finally, in the autumn, there was a truce. Kessel and Bau- 
man settled for $17,000, kept their trade-mark of 101 Bison, 
and obtained a commercial divorce from Uncle Carl. Sennett 
and his troubadours then hastened West. 

Many legends have it that Sennett walked into Los An- 
geles broke. The fact is he traveled first class and in a Pull- 
man lower. He had a reasonably large expense account. It 
was not large enough, however, for in Chicago he again had 
to pawn his faithful diamond ring and leave a satchelful of 
toggery as an earnest of good faith. 

All the way across the Middle West, Mack looked out on 
the prairie-dog hills and brooded. Ince's success with rip- 
roaring spectacles was significant of the public's tastes in 

"Comedy or no comedy," Mack said to his subordinates, 
"we've got to crash through with something that looks like a 

"What'll it be?" asked Fred Mace. "We got no big cast." 

"It's got to be a spectacle. Something bigger'n big." 

Sennett could talk of nothing but "spectacles." It became 
an obsession. The conductor thought Mack had lost his read- 
ing glasses and recommended an optician in Los Angeles. 
Sennett kept right on worrying about "spectacles." He had 


only four actors : Mabel Normand, Ford Sterling, Fred 
Mace and Pathe Lehrman — a shoestring, and what he needed 
was a pair of high boots. 

Mack was in a sour humor as he stepped off the Santa Fe 
train at Los Angeles. He hired a taxi and gave directions to 
go at once to the Alexandria Hotel. Then he heard a band 
playing. Fifes and drums ! And then, as the taxicab stopped 
for traffic, he saw a line of marching men. Tramp! Tramp! 
Tramp ! 

"Quick," said Sennett, "I don't know what it's about, but 
get out the camera, Pathe." 

"It's the G.A.R.," said the taxicab driver. "They've got 
a convention here this week, and the big parade's this morn- 

"God bless them !" said Sennett. "It's our spectacle!" 

Bags and boxes were opened in the taxicab. "Follow us as 
best you can," Sennett said to the driver. "Don't tip anyone 
off to who we are or what we're doing." 

Sennett already had had in mind a story concerning a 
janitor and a policeman fighting for love. He changed the 
policeman role to that of a passionate Grand Army man. 

"You'll be the Grand Army man," he said to Sterling. 
"Mace is the janitor. Just go in and out of the parade, run, 
fall and keep mugging." 

It was a warm day, but Mack made Sterling wear a dark 
blue overcoat, with the collar upturned to simulate a uni- 
form. Mack saw a veteran about to collapse from exertion 


and heat. He sent Mace over to "assist the poor chap." Mace 
came back with the warrior's hat, which helped vastly to 
make Sterling look the part of a soldier. The chapeau was too 
small, and the effect all the more grotesque. 

During the parade, Pathe Lehrman set up the camera at 
various street corners. He elbowed the sidewalk crowds and 
explained to the dubious police that he was the official pho- 
tographer for the G.A.R. Meanwhile Sterling, Mace, Mack 
and Mabel staged California's first comedy chase, in and out 
among the marchers. 

After the parade, Sennett treated his staff to a late lunch- 
eon at a hot-dog stand. He said : 

"Let's finish up this thing this afternoon. We can go to 
the hotel later on." 

He took the company to Edendale, helped a carpenter 
throw together some makeshift scenery and then photo- 
graphed additional episodes. Sennett decided on another 
chase as a grand finale to his picture. He looked up from 
the Edendale stage toward a hill at the rear of the studio 
property. He had it ! A skyline chase. 

Mabel, Mace, Sterling, Sennett and the carpenter ran 
along the top of this hill. A crowd of neighborhood garden- 
ers and school-children participated, free of charge. Sennett 
told the unpaid recruits what an honor it would be to appear 
in motion pictures. They immediately became incurable 
screen actors. 




SK-f r 


Forrf Sterling offers a posie to Mabel Normand, while Mack Sennett, 
in faultless livery, registers what is commonly known as the gamut 

of emotions. 


In subsequent pictures they wanted money as well as 

Among the children to participate in this chase was Louise 
Fazenda. She took an afternoon off from a nearby school to 
become an actress. Three years afterward she was a Sennett 

Sennett wired Kessel and Bauman : 

"Arrived this morning and got spectacle by evening." 

The telegram was garbled, and "spectacle" became "pick- 
led." When the backers received this intelligence, they felt 
cheaply betrayed. A comedy director should have decency 
enough to remain the soberest of fellows, they thought. 

"He means he's drunk and got pinched," moaned Kessel. 

They wired back : "Put out some good comedies and quit 
antagonizing the authorities by too much drinking." 

However, when they received Mack's seven hundred and 
fifty feet of film, they were astonished and highly gratified. 
The masterpiece was called The Grand Army of the Re- 
public; Sennett became Keystone's white-haired boy, and 
Ford Sterling's reputation as a comedian was assured. 

Thanks to the box-office success of the Grand Army spec- 
tacle, Sennett now could afford a long-dreamed-of luxury — 
an automobile. If there was anything he wanted, besides a 
huge bathtub in his office, it was an automobile. He decided 
to get the machine first and reserve his dream of the bath- 
tub as an incentive. He purchased a second-hand Fiat. 


He drove over to Inceville to show off for the benefit of 
his friend, Tom Ince. Ince had his company at work on the 
side of a steep and high hill. Sennett drove up and became 
mired. Ince had to supply twelve horses to get Mack out of 
the muck. 

On the way back to Edendale, Sennett was arrested for 
speeding. He had a friend, however, the District Attorney, 
who squared matters for him. The arresting officer later ap- 
plied to Sennett for a job as a movie extra. He was thrown 
off the lot, crying anathema upon the head of Thespis and 
his demented disciples. 

His brush with the police reminded Sennett of a cherished 
plan to put the gendarmes into pictures. He announced that 
he was going to have a comedy police force. He appointed 
Ford Sterling chief. From that day until the coming of 
sound pictures some of the foremost screen comedians began 
their successes as Keystone Cops. The original Keystone flat- 
feet were Billy Hauber, Billy Gilbert, Slim Summerville, 
Bobby Dunn, Charles Avery and Charlie Parrott (now 
Charlie Chase). 

"We got to have a patrol wagon, too," said Mack. He 
had a passion for second-hand machines ; so he purchased a 
used Black Maria, a two-cylinder crook's victoria. 

In view of Mack's deep love for police portrayals, one 
might assume he would serve on his own police force. How- 
ever, he appeared as a Keystone Cop in only one picture. That 


was when he played with Nick Cogley, afterward a success- 
ful and very hard-boiled Keystone Comedy director. 

Sennett's screen appearances were becoming few and far 
between. For one thing he was tremendously busy with a 
growing concern, and besides he had attained a position 
which, in his opinion, called for a certain amount of execu- 
tive dignity. He fraternized less and less with his actors and 
began to develop a patriarchal and pedagogical manner. The 
imperial frown was gathering on his brow. Sycophants began 
to call him the "King of Comedy.' , 

One day a scrawny, cross-eyed fellow named Ben Turpin 
applied for a job. Sennett was very superstitious and kept his 
fingers crossed all the time Turpin talked. Mack wanted to 
hire Ben, but feared that ill luck might follow. Finally he 
put him to work as a janitor. Later he allowed the angle- 
orbed aspirant to take a trial ride on the back step of the 
patrol wagon. 

"None of our cops are game enough to jump from that 
step and land on their backsides," said Sennett. "If you do 
a good, high fall from that step and don't break your tail, 
I'll give you a job in the pictures." 

Turpin got on the patrol, leaped until the horizon could be 
seen below his flying rump, then landed hard. He got up, 
caught the patrol and took another sensational pratt-fall. 
Again he jumped and landed. And again and again. In fact, 
Sennett and Mace had to restrain him from more leaps. 


"It was pretty good," said Sennett, with characteristic un- 
derstatement. "The job is yours." 

The Leaping Lena feats of Turpin aroused the envy of 
the other cops, all of whom were great and furious tumblers. 
This led to impromptu contests to determine who could en- 
dure the most fantastic falls. Sometimes the comedians 
would vie with one another on the sidewalks of Edendale, 
much to the amazement of the civilians. 

Turpin did not confine his leaping practices to the lot or 
the sidewalks. He used to simulate a high-diving epilepsy and 
fall from the platforms of street cars. The trolley crews 
would be terrified. Once he staggered to the tracks and sun- 
fished directly in the path of an approaching car. The motor- 
man ground the brakes and Turpin rolled from the right-of- 
way just in time to escape injury. He quickly wriggled be- 
neath the trucks of the now-stalled car and pretended he had 
been run over. Someone called an ambulance, and when the 
doctor leaned over Turpin to examine him, Ben opened his 
very cross eyes and almost scared the surgeon to death. 
Tramway officials requested Sennett to keep Turpin off their 

"He's a menace," said the Inspector. "He breaks our mo- 
tormen's morale." 

Although he had not yet developed his sensational bathing- 
beauty sequences, Sennett had an inkling of that idea when 
he saw Mabel Normand perform in a bathing suit. She was 


an excellent diver and swimmer. Sennett found that audi- 
ences enjoyed a certain amount of athletic girlhood, together 
with the comedy of the Keystone Cops. Experiences in bur- 
lesque houses told him that his judgment was sound in this 

He hired a few young ladies to appear with the cops in 
water scenes. He took a water comedy at a seaside resort, 
and so marked was the box-office response that Sennett wrote 
to Kessel and Bauman : 

"I'm going to collect some of the prettiest girls in the 
world for bathing-beauty comedies. I think we ought to en- 
large our studio. In particular I want a concrete swimming 
pool and a new office with suitable plumbing. We're out- 
growing the shacks and the old stage." 

Kessel and Bauman advised Mack to be patient. He would 
be given better buildings and more land. 

"I'll get a big bathtub and a rubbing board in my office, 
too," he told Mabel Normand. "There's nothing like a good 
bath to make a man think." 

Ford Sterling now was one of the three most popular 
comedians on the screen. One of his rivals was the good- 
natured and corpulent John Bunny, former shoe-string sales- 
man, minstrel and stage-player of the part of Bottom in A 
Midsummer Night's Dream. Bunny was with Vitagraph, and 
cavorted opposite slim Flora Finch. Sterling's other com- 
petitor for laughs was Max Linder, the French comedian. 


Sennett always regarded Linder as one of the best comedians 
of all time. It is said by some — among them Mrs. D. W. 
Griffith — that Sennett imitated Linder in his own early ef- 
forts on the screen. Linder came to America in 191 7, to work 
for Essanay, failed signally and returned to Paris, where he 
and his wife committed suicide in 1925. 

Mack Swain, one of the most consistently funny come- 
dians, was discovered at about this time by Sennett, as also 
was the vital Polly Moran. Another notable to join the Sen- 
nett group was Walter Wright, a director, subsequently one 
of the foremost experts on color photography. 

The usual Keystone Comedies ran for five hundred feet. 
When a picture of this length did not strike Mack as comical 
enough, he would shorten it to two hundred and fifty feet 
and fill in the rest of his allotted space with educational fea- 
tures, such as the canning of tuna fish or the handiwork of 
the Zufii Indians. 

Chapter 12 


A POPULAR comedian, whom we find it expedient to 
call Bert Landish, went to work for Sennett early in 
1 91 3. We do not withhold his real name for reasons pertain- 
ing to Bert's immorality ; on the contrary, we must guard his 
identity because he was moral. 

Hollywood — known as Dr. Satan's principal terrestrial 
clinic — never had a citizen more discreet, a man more vir- 
tuous than Comedian Landish. He did not drink hard cider, 
curse when maimed, nor engage in haystack charades. 

His wife was obstreperously jealous. She was wont to 
humiliate her spouse with absurd claims that he had risked 
an eye during the Santa Anna winds. These Southern Cali- 
fornia monsoons race in from the Mojave Desert to distrib- 



ute pollen among sex-starved posies and molest the skirts 
of the fair. Landish suffered with droll complacency his 
wife's green-eyed heckling. He was a saint, even if he didn't 
undergo the usual saintly yearnings for lessons in compara- 
tive anatomy. In short, he was the answer to the censor's 

He even tried to avoid comedians who swilled liquor, 
philandered with charwomen and social leaders and then 
bragged about it. He also sought refinement and delicate 
conversational habits among his women co-workers. Perhaps 
Mabel Normand was the only girl whose fire-eating man- 
ners and blunt aphorisms did not distress Mr. Landish. He 
was sure that Mabel's monkeyshines masked a very fine and 
clean spirit. 

The girl that Bert shunned beyond all others was a young 
and blithe newcomer to the lot. Sennett had hired her as a 
bathing beauty. And once again discretion compels us, 
against our will, to give the lady a name of our own design. 
I shall call her Mildred Golden, after a matron who once 
caught me peeking through a hole in her window-shade and 
told my grandmother. (God bless Granny, who said: "The 
lad has to learn these secrets sometime.") 

Keystone's Millie was beloved by many men, none of 
whom wished to insult her intelligence with offers of mar- 
riage. She, in turn, responded whole-heartedly to all invita- 
tions, including ice cream debauches. Despite her apparent 
promiscuity, Millie wanted most of all to be alone with Bert. 


She said she loved him even more ardently than she did a 
certain Santa Barbara grocer, with whom she spent week- 

One day Millie felt that she was in trouble. Instead of 
going to one of the several males of Los Angeles County 
who might well have been responsible for her plight, she 
consulted her politico-legal representative, the District At- 
torney ! 

"I want to make a complaint against a certain fellow," 
she said. 

"On what grounds?" asked the District Attorney. 

She was very grim and precise. "Seduction !" 

The District Attorney was impressed by her beauty, her 
charm, her choice of words and her choice of grounds. "How 
old are you ?" 

"Seventeen, last May." 

"Oho!" said the public prosecutor. "Where do you work?" 

"At the Keystone Picture studio, No. 1712 Allesandro 

The District Attorney was aghast. Not only had he 
formed a friendship for Mr. Sennett, following the time he 
had interceded for him in the automobile-speeding incident, 
but he also was well acquainted with several comedians on 
the Keystone lot. 

"This is a very serious charge," said the District Attor- 
ney. "Would you wait right here for a moment?" 

He retired to an ante-room and called up Mr. Sennett. 


1 'Hello, Mack. Does a girl named Millie Golden work for 

"Millie Golden?" said Mack. "Why, yes. She's one of my 
bathing girls. Why you asking?" 

"She's in my office now, Mack. In a jam. You know? 
Cupid ! And she's going to swear out a complaint and name 
the man. She's only seventeen, she says, a minor, and you 
know what that means for somebody? San Quentin Peni- 

We leave the District Attorney's confessional and "cut" 
to Mack Sennett's office, where we find the King of Comedy 
as pale as dough and in a state of confusion. Not that he was 
guilty of the great seduction, but he felt certain that some- 
body — anybody — was. 

After he had partially recovered from the shock, Mack 
scurried from his office. The first man he bumped into was 
Bert Landish, the monogomist. 

"Get your things, Bert. We got to leave the country!" 

Bert was understandably distrait. "Leave the country? 

Mr. Sennett shouted : "Rape !" 

The word stunned Mr. Landish. "But, Mr. Sennett . . . 
Why . . ." 

"No time for 'buts' and 'whys.' Shake a leg. We're beat- 
ing it. The whole gang ! Now." 

Mack ran up and down the lot, kicking at shanty doors, 


stomping on stages and acting as a horseless Paul Revere. 

Bert had caught up with him. "My wife won't let me 
leave the country." 

"The hell with her !" said Sennett. "You gotta come. ,, 

"But where?" 

"I dunno. Some place where they got no extradition treaty. 
Mexico. Yeah. Lower California, where all the criminals 

Mack decided that Mabel Normand and Polly Moran must 
come along to Lower California. 

"Great heavens, Moike," said Mabel, "you don't think the 
D. A. suspects me, do you ?" 

Mack made a categorical answer. "Everybody's guilty till 
they're proved innocent; that's the law. Come on now. Hey, 
boys! Boys! Sterling! Mace! Pathe! Pack up the camera 
and some film." 

"Where to, Master?" asked Pathe. 

Mack called for his Fiat car. "No time for clowning, 
Pathe. Pile in and tell the others to follow to Tia Juana. It's 
a matter of life or death — or San Quentin, which is both." 

Mack herded Bert, Mabel, Polly, Mace, Pathe and Ster- 
ling into his car, together with the photographic equipment. 
He stepped on the gas and raced toward San Diego. He 
paused there for more fuel, and never stopped until they 
were across the Mexican boundary line. Other members of 
the company followed as best they could; some of them 


begged rides from farmers and tourists. Mabel and Polly 
were the only ladies among the refugees. 

On their arrival at Tia Juana, Mack's party found an in- 
surrection in the making. A group of American bandits and 
renegades were stirring up the Mexicans to revolt against the 
government. The town was an armed camp. The ring-leader 
was an American named Zeph Crocker, wanted in the United 
States for several murders and numerous bank holdups. 

Several shots were fired and much ugly comment made as 
Mack drove up to the inn. That hostelry was crowded. The 
manager said he didn't know where the applicants might find 
rooms. Bandit Crocker appeared on the scene to accuse Mack 
of being an officer sent to round up his gang. It might have 
gone badly for Mack had not Crocker recognized Sterling. 

"Hello, pal," said the bandit to Mr. Sterling, "you're the 
funny Dutchman. I seen yah in the movies." 

Mr. Crocker commanded the manager of the inn to take 
care of the party. Mabel and Polly shared a room. It har- 
bored a single bed and a spider that came out of a crack in 
the wall to do setting-up exercises. Sennett, Mace and Pathe 
were given a small room where rats as big as beavers could 
be heard as they chewed at the wainscoting. 

"Why don't you confess?" Sennett asked Bert. "Then 
we'd all be cleared of suspicion about Millie." 

Bert did not see the joke. "Mr. Sennett, monkeying with 
women is something I never do. Even if I was tempted, my 
wife would crucify me." 


The bandit leader was happy to have met Sterling. He de- 
creed that Ford share his room. He led Sterling to a foul- 
smelling chamber, where a girl was sleeping off a mescal 

"Does she interest you any, brother ?" asked the bandit. 

"No, thanks," said Sterling. 

"Okay, then," said Mr. Crocker, who awakened his sweet- 
heart with a boot that any Princeton place-kicker might have 
coveted. "Get up, dog-meat, and go sleep in the patio." 

As the intoxicated lady limped out, rubbing her hip, Mr. 
Crocker looked after her and said: "Women take an awful 
lot for granted, don't they ?" 

Mack and his troupe started to make a picture in Lower 
California, so as not to fall behind schedule. There was no 
word from Los Angeles, and Sennett hoped for the best. 
Meanwhile the threat of revolution grew more pronounced. 
There were hourly brawls in the streets, cock-fights, gam- 
bling quarrels, stabbings, shootings and a general air of 
drunken bedlam. Once a firing squad performed their fatal 
office beneath Sennett's window. 

Sterling became hollow-eyed and miserable. He explained 
to Mack that he was getting little or no sleep. 

"Why crab about it?" asked Mack. "Who is getting any 
sleep? Look at me, in bed with big-belly Mace and nervous 
Pathe. He squirms like a garter snake and yells all night for 
somebody named Winnie. Say, you got all the best of it." 


"Like hell !" said Sterling. "This here Crocker keeps the 
kerosene lamp burning all night. It smarts my eyes and 
smells so bad I want to throw up." 

When Sterling complained of the lamp to Crocker, the 
bandit said : "I can't help it, buddy. I simply gotta sleep with 
the light on. My mother used to leave it burning after she 
sung me to sleep. I sure missed the old lady after they sent 
her up." 

"To prison?" asked Sterling. 

"She cooled off the old man after he made a pass at her 
wid a jug. Self-defense pure an' simple, but they put her 
away. That's justice for yah! Sweet woman, too. The old 
man was a grease ball. Glad she croaked him. Sorry about 
that lamp. But she stays lit. See?" 

Mr. Crocker always slept with lots of pistols, rifles and 
knives. He had a machete, a razor-sharp weapon, of which 
he was very proud. He wore it in his belt whenever he sal- 
lied forth. Some of this hardware was bound to poke Ster- 
ling in the ribs if he dared to stir an inch during the night. 

There was a climax to Ford Sterling's disquieting experi- 
ences one morning shortly before dawn. Bandit Crocker had 
left the room at midnight, and Sterling had taken a desperate 
chance and blown out the light. He was getting his first 
sound sleep in a week when Crocker jabbed him in the side 
with the hilt of the machete. 

"Whatcha mean turnin' out the lamp?" asked the bandit. 


Sterling sat up as the bandit re-lighted the lamp. "What? 
Oh, the lamp! It must of blown out in the wind." 

"Yeah?" said Crocker. "There ain't been as much wind as 
a baby's sneeze for three whole days. Don't do it no more, 

Sterling was about to speak, but suddenly looked at Crock- 
er's hands — at his hands, his wrinkled duck trousers and 
frowsy linen coat. They were splotched with blood ! Sterling 
could not speak. 

Mr. Crocker grumbled a bit as he fitted the flue more 
snugly to the burner. "Okay, Sterling. We'll forget it this 
oncet. Now move over. I'm all wore out." He yawned. "That 
God damned Jap !" 

Sterling's teeth were doing a death-house tap dance. 
"Ain't you . . . going to . . . to . . . wash . . . u-u-u- 

Crocker raised his brows critically. "What's this? Say, 
you ain't gettin' choosey? Move over. I'm turnin' in as is, 
and don't cop a sneak wid that light, see? Goo' night." 

Mr. Crocker lay down, then snorted and got up again to 
take off his boots. "I got a big callus on my toe. Did you 
ever get a callus?" Lacking a reply, he began to soliloquize. 
"The damned rat of a Jap ! He had it comin' to him." 

Mr. Sterling ventured an inquiry. "Is he in ... a hos- 

Crocker had taken both boots off, but indicated that was 
as far as he would go with disrobing. "Hospital? Yeah. A 


hospital shaped like a roundhouse. I put him head first in a 

Crocker began to laugh. "He didn't have a chancet to open 
his yap. The double-crosser ! I set him up las' month as a 
dope peddler and give him a cargo of hop to run across the 
border. What does he do? Comes back and claims the cus- 
toms men confiscated the mud but let him escape." Mr. 
Crocker hurled both boots to the floor, startling a mouse in 
a corner. "Huh! I'll say he escaped." He cupped his hands 
and halloed to the startled mouse as it streaked down a hole 
in the floor. "Hey, mousie ! Your brother escaped !" 

Mr. Sterling sat up, startled by the address to the mouse, 
by the wild look in Crocker's eyes and by the blood. The 
bandit continued : 

"I chase him into the patio, the skunk! I give him the 
machete and cut his head off like a gourd. Then I chuck him 
into the rain-barrel." 

Mr. Sterling lay back on his lumpy pillow. He covered his 
eyes with his hands. Mr. Crocker studied this gesture and 
said: "What's the matter wid you, anyways? Can't you 
stand this light?" 

"My eyes smart, that's all," said Sterling. "They got 
strained all day in the sun." 

"The sun gets you at first down here," said Crocker, who 
rose to go to the window. He put his foot on the sill and 
massaged his callus. "Gee, it's breakin' daylight already. 
Ain't it quiet? Just the birds and roosters. Azevedo's bird 

Milla Davenport throttles Mabel Xormand while the police hold gallant 
Harry McCoy and Fatty Arbuckle for questioning. 


won the cock-fight today. That's five straight. You'd never 
t'ink the sun'd be hot as hell in a few hours. It used to get 
awful hot in Nebraska, too. It was 103 the day of my old 
lady's sentence. That horse-faced judge says to her . . . 
Hey, Sterling, you asleep yet?" 

Mr. Sterling moaned : "Not quite." 

Mr. Crocker was pointing out the window and chuckling. 
"Say, you can see the rain-barrel from here. Want to get up 
and take a peek before they come to lug him to the morgue? 
God almighty, but his gams look funny hangin' over the 
rim, like Hallowe'en at the reformatory when the super used 
to let us bob for apples. He's got a mighty big tokus for a 
Jap. Come on, Sterling, and give a look." 

Mr. Sterling sat upright and screamed : "Mein Gott in 

The bandit was mystified. "Excuse me. If your glims 
smart that bad, I'll douse the lamp. It's daylight anyways." 

One more week passed and a visitor whom all the troupe 
knew came to Tia Juana. She was Miss Bess Meredyth, a 
newspaper woman who afterward became a motion-picture 
actress. (Today she is a first-flight scenarist and the wife of 
Michael Curtiz, director.) 

Bess found Mabel and Polly in their two-by-four room at 
the flimsy hotel. Mabel was sitting in a rheumatic rocking- 
chair, crying softly. Bess started to sit on the edge of the bed, 
but Polly seized her arm. 


"Don't sit there, Bess. You'll go away from here alive 
with bugs." 

Bess asked Mabel what was wrong. "Homesick?" 

"She's low in the mind," said Polly. 

"I almost got put in jail this afternoon," said Mabel. 

"What for?" 

Mabel dabbed her eyes. "Damned if I know. I was driv- 
ing Moike's car, and all I did was run over a policeman." 

Miss Meredyth sympathized. "They must be getting 
touchy down here. Well, children, I'm here to do a story 
on the revolution for a newspaper syndicate. By the way, 
why did Mack drag you down to this hole in the map?" 

"To get away from trouble," said Mabel. 

"Get away?" said Bess. "Looks as though he put you right 
in the middle of it. What trouble ?" 

"Who do you think you're kidding?" asked Mabel. "You 
know what trouble." 

"No, I don't," said Bess. "Honestly I don't." 

"I'm sceptical," said Mabel. "You surely heard of the 
squawk that Golden girl made." 

"Oh," said Bess. "Yes, I know about that. But what's it 
got to do with you folks?" 

When the situation was made clear, Bess laughed. 
"Haven't you people read the papers ?" 

"I brought a Police Gazette with me," said Mabel. "It's 
the only library in this charming oasis." 

"Well," said Bess, "I think Mack can take you home to- 


morrow. The Golden girl did make a complaint, but she 
named the owner of a grocery store in Santa Barbara. Not 
a word about Keystone romances. He's been indicted by the 
grand jury." 

When Mack heard the news, the burden of a hundred 
years rolled from his soul. None the less, he said they would 
wait in Tia Juana until he had confirmed the report. Mean- 
while he would make some additional shots to pictorialize an 
idea prompted by Ford Sterling's touching story of the Jap 
in the rain-barrel. 

While the company was completing the picture among 
the cactus fields, Bert Landish sat on a mound several yards 
from the camera. He suddenly let out a yell and began to 
pound at his pants violently. 

"Something's got me!" he howled. "It's terrific!" 

"Where?" asked Sennett. "What is it?" 

"Something's chewing on me," screamed Bert, running 
about in pain, and slapping at his trousers. "An ant with red- 
hot pincers." 

"Can't you tell us where?" asked Mack. 

Bert pointed to the ladies of the troupe. "I can't tell you 
now. But it's awful." 

After the troupe had returned to the Keystone lot and the 
shadows of San Quentin were forgotten, Bert Landish re- 
ported at Sennett's office. He said his wife was contemplat- 
ing a divorce. 


"What's eating on her now?" asked Mack. 

Mr. Landish was in an indigo mood. "She claims I was 
unfaithful to her in Mexico." 

Mack pooh-poohed. "She ought to have her brains exam- 
ined. I'll talk to her. You, of all people! It's insane." 

"It's no use, Mr. Sennett. She has proof." 

"Proof? What you talking about?" 

"That insect-bite. She claims I contracted a disorder." 

"That's crazy," said Mack. "I admit it's peculiar, but 
didn't you tell her an ant bit you?" 

"Sure I told her." 

"And what did she say?" 

"She sneered and said : Tnsect !' and walked out on me." 

Four years after the Tia Juana junket, and when Mr. 
Hampden Del Ruth was Sennett's general studio overseer 
and casting director, a heavy vamp was needed for a picture. 
Del Ruth finally found a girl he thought would do. She was 
very tight-lipped and glumly mysterious. She sat and watched 
Del Ruth with a morose stare. 

"I know you can do just what we want for this picture," 
said Del Ruth, "and Mr. Sennett will okay you, I know." 

She seemed astonished. "Mr. Sennett has to okay me?" 

"Oh, yes. Just a formality. He has the final word on every- 
body around here." 

She rose. "Well," she said. "Just tell Mr. Sennett that 
Millie Golden dropped in. So long." 

Chapter 13 


AFILMIST who could make one hundred and four 
successful motion pictures during his first year of 
production was entitled to Hollywood's greatest rewards. 

Sennett had issued that number of comedies under the 
Keystone seal, and, late in 191 3, felt that Kessel and Bau- 
man should give him his heart's desire — an office bathtub of 
generous displacement. They were delighted with this conceit 
and placed an order for a tub to measure eight feet from 
stem to stern, six feet of beam and drawing five feet. Sen- 
nett was as happy about his indoor yacht as J. P. Morgan, 
the elder, with a new Corsair. 

Modern Hollywood's mark of distinction is the swimming 
pool. In the early days of cinematic affluence, the bathtub at- 



tested to a man's calibre and social standing. The more or- 
nate and the more vast the tub, the greater respect one com- 
manded among his fellows. 

The bathtub rivalry reached its all-time zenith while the 
world was at war and when Actor Charles Ray commis- 
sioned the jewelry firm of Tiffany to lay down the keel of a 
cut-glass tub! It was, in a manner of speaking, a gem. Jimmy 
Starr, the encyclopedic newspaper columnist, tells me it cost 
$60,000; that the Tiffany ladlers tried three times at the 
moulds before they could obtain a crystal-clear vat. It re- 
quired as much precision in the casting as the pampered lens 
of an astronomical observatory. 

After this Kohinoor of the toilet was set in the Ray resi- 
dence, a group of Italian glass-cutters went to work on its 
transparent bosom. These lavatory Cellinis graved thereon 
filigrees and lacy motifs until the sides of the tub looked like 
— what shall we say? — looked like the Virgin Queen Eliza- 
beth's underthings (if I may rely on an unpublished memoir 
attributed to Essex). 

The Ray reservoir threatened the attending plumbers with 
nervous breakdown when they began to swab pipe joints in 
its neighborhood. Even chrome-steel is not impervious to 
plumber's tools, and this vessel was of glass! After a con- 
ference, one sanitary engineer suggested the insulation of 
Stillson wrenches with rubber cushions. Another efficiency 
man wanted to encase the workmen's hands in boxing gloves. 
A third pipe-and-pot man (a candidate for the Academy of 


Motion Picture Arts and Sciences award) solved the quan- 
dary by reverting to first principles — he forgot his tools 

Although Sennett did not go in for cut-glass troughs or 
china tubs suggestive of the Ming Dynasty, he most cer- 
tainly out-stripped all other connoisseurs in respect to size 
of hygienic utensils. His tub was big enough to commit sui- 
cide in without suffering a cramp. 

When the Sennett dreadnought had been delivered on a 
safe-mover's truck, drawn by six steaming Percherons, Mack 
realized he must have a place worthy of its porcelain gran- 
deur. The studio barracks till then consisted of a barn, a small 
store-building that served as an office, a cutting and projec- 
tion room which resembled the birthplace of Daniel Boone, 
and a two-room house, one chamber of which was Mabel 
Normand's dressing room, and the other that of the Key- 
stone Cops. 

Mack put his bathtub in drydock while artisans began to 
rear a new administration building. It was to be two stories 
high, with a gymnasium on the roof, and a tower. This tower 
would be his office. In it would be a rubbing board, a steam 
chamber and his precious and Gargantuan tub. A small desk 
and a few plain chairs were afterthoughts. 

When the men had built the Tower, it was learned to 
everyone's dismay that they couldn't get the great tub 
through any normal door or window. So they removed one 
wall of the Tower, set up cranes, block-and-tackle, derricks, 


hoists, and brought a donkey engine to the scene. Sennett 
barked orders like a Bavarian major getting a gun-carriage 
up the Alps. 

What an imposing bathroom-office the Tower was ! From 
its windows the King of Comedy could look down upon the 
new stages to see that his vassals were properly at work. All 
sets were erected out of doors and shielded by white muslin 
to diffuse the sunlight. The reflectors, also, were of muslin, 
with an occasional mirror. No one had thought of silver 
leaf, gold leaf, tin or aluminum for this purpose. 

The actors reported at nine o'clock in the morning and 
were not required to put on their make-up until assured that 
the sun would spend the day with them. And whenever some 
weary mime wanted to go home, he would suggest that the 
sun was "getting kinda yellow," and the camera man, nine 
times out of ten, would agree and shut up shop. 

It was to prevent such derelictions as "early quitting" — 
as well as to find sanctuary for the big bathtub — that led Sen- 
nett to build his Tower. He could scrutinize everybody and 
everything from that crow's nest. 

This sort of watchfulness grew with Sennett's every 
achievement. He had much of the headmaster's iron in his 
blood. Success brought to him an austere loneliness. He was 
very lenient in certain respects, encouraged temperament and 
wanted his troupe to have a good time, but in some ways he 
was a ruthless disciplinarian. There was no question as to 


who was the boss. The troupe now referred to Sennett as 
"The Old Man" — in off-stage whispers, of course. 

Sennett had two hard-and-fast rules : No drinking on the 
lot, and no love-making. Male players were forbidden to be 
seen off the grounds with bathing beauties. The penalty for 
a bacchanalian lapse was a mere reprimand ; the punishment 
for dalliance with Aphrodite was loud and sudden dismissal. 

Sennett always had whiskey and beer in his bathroom- 
headquarters, but no one else — with one exception — could 
have a similar luxury on the premises. The lone exception 
was Joe Jackson, the tramp comedian. Joe was an Austrian 
and liked his beer. 

During Jackson's first day at Keystone, an express wagon, 
laden to the gunwales with Pilsner barrels, a beer-pump, cop- 
per coils and other pot-house fittings, started through the 
main gate. Sennett's watchman stopped the driver. 

"Nix," said the watchman. "The Old Man don't allow no 

Jackson went to the Tower to resign. Sennett then ruled 
that Jackson alone might have beer. The rule was tempered 
with the admonishment that Jackson's tippling be done be- 
hind closed doors. 

This pontifical decision proved a godsend to other thirsty 
comedians. Not only did they partake of Joe's beer, but kept 
caches of liquor in his dressing room. 

"I can't understand why some of the boys look pie-eyed all 
the time," Sennett complained. "I know they got no booze 


on the lot. Maybe they're sissies and can't shake off a hang- 

Sennett held morning conferences in the Tower, while he 
floated in the water of his tub or lay upon the rubbing board. 
He often invited favored employes to get in the tub with him. 
Up to his neck in water, he liked to talk over a last night's 
pre-view while his cutter sat opposite him. 

"There's nothing quite as stimulating as a bath," he would 

Although he stayed up late, Mack was an early riser. He 
was constitutionally strong and took excellent care of him- 
self. He went for long walks, boxed and rode horseback. He 
hired a trainer, a hulking fellow named Abdul the Turk, to 
pound his muscles after the bath. 

Abdul Mai j an was a native of Harpoot, Turkey. He had 
been a semi-windup prize fighter, a wrestler and then a 
trainer at Joe Mellet's pugilistic camp at San Bruno, a San 
Francisco suburb. Among others, he had conditioned the 
great Stanley Ketchel. 

On Abdul's first day with Sennett, he was assigned to go 
horseback riding with the boss. Abdul was not a gentleman 
jockey by any means, but he had become inured to the whims 
of eccentric employers. 

"You ever been on a horse ?" asked Mack. 

"Plenty times," said Abdul. "I ride the beeg Arabian stud- 
horse in Harpoot." 


The horses were brought over from Curly Eagle's stables, 
not far from Silver Lake. Abdul had some difficulty in get- 
ting aboard; the horse did not like to be mounted from the 
right side. It is quite possible the steed did not like Abdul, 
who never had been in a saddle till this fine morning. 

No sooner had Abdul settled his broad beam than the 
horse decided to run away. Sennett didn't realize that the 
Turk's charger was going on his own. Mack started in pur- 
suit, shouting: "You damn fool, Turk! What's the matter? 
You crazy?" 

Abdul did not choose to reply. He tried to affix a deterring 
strangle-hold upon his palfrey, but gave an Ichabod Crane 
exhibition which inspired in the horse a still greater zeal for 

A group of Mexican truck-gardeners were among their 
placid spinach when Abdul's horse chose that field for his 
cross-country run. The animal plunged through the truck- 
garden, with Sennett five lengths behind. The air was full 
of spinach, oaths and Mexicans. The furious gallop did not 
end until Abdul's horse reached his home-stall at Curly 
Eagle's barn. 

"What in hell was the matter with you?" Sennett asked. 

The Turk was sweating and panting. "I pull and I pull like 
hell and can no stop de horse." 

Sennett examined the bridle of Abdul's whinnying beast 
and began to laugh. "No wonder! There's no chin-strap." 


Mack now was thirty-four years old, weighed almost 200 
pounds and had a telling punch. But he was not wantonly 
pugnacious. Like most powerful men, he could afford to pass 
off lightly the threats of less brawny soreheads. 

One day while sparring with Abdul, he hit his partner's 
chin harder than he had intended. Abdul got boiling mad and 
rushed at Sennett. Mack backed away, held out a parrying 
left hand and said : "Careful there, Turk. Look out for your 
job, or you'll knock yourself out!" 

Abdul stopped midway in his rush. In a flash he translated 
Sennett's remarks into idiomatic Turkish. In his language, 
too, discretion is the better part of commerce. Economic de- 
terminism has been known to make the best of professionals 
pull their punches. Abdul almost lost his balance but saved 
his job. 

Among the improvements at the Edendale home of com- 
edy was the big concrete bathing pool that stood a few yards 
from Allesandro street. Today it is a gray ruin, with ivy 
growing outside its cracked retaining wall. The smooth ce- 
ment facing is breaking away from the inside wall and the 
old basin is one-third full of rubbish, fit to curdle the wits of 
archeologists or of those scientists who so nimbly recon- 
struct the skull of a Piltdown man from a chip of bone. 

It is difficult to believe that a great company of celebrated 
stars once created laughs for the millions in this pool. Marie 


Dressier, Charlie Chaplin, Wallace Beery, Gloria Swanson, 
Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, Mabel Normand, Ford Sterling, 
Harry Langdon, Phyllis Haver, Eddie Foy and the little 
Foys, W. C. Fields, Ben Turpin, Mack Swain, Chester 
Conklin, Joe Jackson, Al St. John, Harold Lloyd, Willie 
Collier, Sr., Sam Bernard, Hale Hamilton, Raymond Hitch- 
cock, Fred Mace, Weber and Fields, Lew Cody, Marie Pre- 
vost, Louise Fazenda, Syd Chaplin, Bobby Dunn, Polly 
Moran, Bebe Daniels, Eddie Quillen, Buster Keaton, Charlie 
Murray, Hal Roach ... so many, many more there were ! 
What modern producer can claim a list so impressive? 

The dressing rooms of the stars adjoined this plunge, and 
on Saturday afternoons the Thespians would jump from 
their porches into its waters. 

On the spring day when I went with Jimmy Starr, Sen- 
nett's one-time office boy, to look over the ruins of the de- 
serted lot, it was as though a lost civilization lay buried be- 
neath the kitchen-middens of Edendale. The old pool seemed 
a sacrificial pit of a weird and vanished race. 

One peers over the crumbling ledge to see an obscene med- 
ley of warped and rusty gutters, sere palm leaves, tin cans, 
a bucket with remnants of ancient mortar bulging its bot- 
tom, discarded wash tubs, a section of bashed-in stove pipe, 
the dented hood of an automobile radiator of a forgotten 
make, the rim of a derby hat, a ruptured water-boiler, a bi- 
cycle frame, whiskey-bottle shards, coils of elevator cable, 


parts of an antiquated projection machine, tire fragments, 
dry branches, a broken ladder, a cracked porcelain basin, a 
tangle of barbed-wire, aged and crumpled newspapers, burlap 
sacks, screens from long-decayed doors, rotten boards, and 
that last symbol of all ephemeral art — a dunghill. 

Chapter 14 


FORD STERLING called at the Tower one morning to 
confer with Mr. Sennett. Abdul the Turk was kneading 
his master's bread-basket with coarse salt. Mr. Sterling sat 
beside the table to witness this interesting treatment. He de- 
clined a bath and said he had reached an important conclu- 

"I feel the lack of music." Sterling paused, then sighed: 
"An utter lack." 

"Turn over, Mr. Sennett," said Abdul. "We give the back 
some, hey?" 

The King of Comedy rolled over on his back and yawned. 
"Put a little more pressure on it, Abdul. There. That's got 



"Sure," said Abdul. "Then we go in the steam some more, 

Mr. Sterling studied the two nude gentlemen critically. "I 
guess you didn't hear me, Mack. I said I feel the lack of 

"I didn't deny it, did I?" asked Mack. 

"I think music would revolutionize my work." 

"Well, go ahead and sing." 

Mr. Sterling was very solemn. "I got a brand-new idea for 
comedy, something different, something for the soul." 

"Yeah?" said Mack. "Well, don't you think our souls are 
doing pretty good the way they are?" 

"No," said Sterling. "Frankly, I don't." 

"Oh, you don't, eh? Well, let's have it. What's on your 
mind except music for the soul?" 

"Griffith always gets his actors in a mood with violins and 

Sennett snorted. "Sure. But would an orchestra help you 
with a chase, or while you're getting hit with a brick?" 

Sterling sat forward on his chair. "I want to do the next 
picture all by myself. Something artistic." 

The rubbing-table jiggled and Sennett said : "Quit shoving 
the table, Abdul." 

"I wasn't shoving anything, boss. It just happened by 

Sennett then said to Sterling: "Music would make our 
comedies slow, and we can't risk it. Remember, the public 

The side-splitting antics of Mack Sennett provoke a coy smile from 
Mabel Normand. 


swallows our impossible gags because we throw 'em fast and 
top 'em one after the other. Once we stop to let anybody ana- 
lyze us, we're sunk. I've given you plenty latitude, Ford, 
because you've delivered the goods. But music — nix !" 

A bottle of rub-down liniment fell from a shelf. It almost 
crowned the King of Comedy. "Hey, Abdul!" he shouted. 
"What in hell? You're gettin' awful clumsy." 

"I did not knock her down, Mr. Sennett," said Abdul. 
"She just drop. Boom !" 

Mr. Sterling was sulking now. "So you won't give me 
some violinists, eh?" 

"What does Lehrman say?" 

"He says, 'Nuts.' " 

At this moment the whole building began to shake. "It's 
an earthquake !" said Mack. He leaped from the table. Ster- 
ling already was hopping down the steps. Abdul and Sen- 
nett, both stark naked, were coming after him, shouting: 

Abdul was anxious to have his master retract earlier ac- 
cusations. "See? I didn't knock the bottle or hit against the 
table, hey? We have the earthquake like this in Turkey 

"The hell with Turkey!" said Mack, running toward Al- 
lesandro street. Many excited citizens were already in that 
thoroughfare. The appearance among them of two nude 
heavyweights was a bizarre sensation. The salt coating on 
Mack's torso gave him a Lot's wife veneer which caused 


comment. What kind of immoral pictures were they taking 
on the Keystone lot ? 

Ford Sterling had beaten Mack and Abdul to the street. 
"For God's sake, Ford," Mack said, 'lend me your coat 
for an apron." 

"Do I get an orchestra for the picture?" 

"I'll give you Sousa hisself. Hand me your coat before 
I get pinched." 

"Will it be a five-piece orchestra?" 

"Yes. A brass band, if you give me the coat." 

"Can I make the picture all by myself? No director?" 

"Do I get that coat or don't I?" 

"Promise? An orchestra and some privacy?" 

"I'll promise anything." 

Sterling took off his coat and Mack hastily put it over his 
salted loins. "Tie the sleeves in back. And give Abdul your 
shirt. Here comes a cop." 

The ground was giving forth a rumbling sound. A second 
shock had set in. "I'll give Abdul my shirt," Sterling said, 
"if you'll agree to put a canvas screen around the stage when 
I start the picture." 

"Okay," said Mack. "Where's your modesty, Abdul, 
standing there like that ?" 

"It happens lots of time in Turkey," said Abdul. 

After the earth had finished its tango, Mack, Abdul and 
Sterling returned to the Tower. "I only hope nothing hap- 
pened to my plumbing," Mack said. He found his tub un- 


harmed and said to Abdul : "Get me my pants and sweep up 
them busted bottles." 

To Ford he said : "Maybe you've got an idea in this music 
thing. I dunno. We'll try it." 

"It'll revolutionize comedy," said Ford. 

Sennett gave Sterling a camera man and a stage to him- 
self. He surrounded it with high canvas walls. He hired an 
orchestra at $100 a day. Sterling would not permit the or- 
chestra inside the enclosure, but seated them the other side 
of the canvas partition. He gave directions through the cloth 

For four days Sennett heard the orchestra playing nothing 
but "Hearts and Flowers." Sterling had put up a muslin 
ceiling so that Sennett, for once, could not see inside the set 
from the Tower. In desperation, Sennett went down and 
called through the canvas wall : "Hey, Sterling, can't you 
change that damn 'Hearts and Flowers' tune to something 

"Where's your sense of honor?" said Ford. "You prom- 
ised not to butt in." 

"Well, can't they play 'When You and I Were Young, 
Maggie'? Or something just as good? It's driving every- 
body nuts." 

"Go 'way," said Sterling. 

Mack bore with the orchestra another day. Sterling was 
supposed to be making a picture called Follow in Father's 
Footsteps. The story concerned a proud sire who sought to 


buy off a vixen after she had ensnared his son. Finally, Mack 
could stand the "Hearts and Flowers" theme no longer. He 
went down to the Sterling stage, sneaked to the side opposite 
that of the musicians, brought out a jack-knife and cut a slit 
in the canvas. He peeked inside and was amazed to see Ster- 
ling weaving up and down before the camera. The comedian 
made slow, hypnotic passes and recited in a Warfieldian 
voice : 

"My son, my son. What have you done? You son of a 

He looked very sad as he recited what may or may not 
have been his own poetic version of Follow in Father's Foot- 
steps. Mack slipped away from the wall, unseen and very 
much mystified. As he retired to the Tower, the orchestra 
suddenly changed its monotonous tune to "Auld Lang 

"That's funny," Sennett thought. "Why didn't they play 
that before?" 

Then the music stopped altogether. Half an hour later 
Sterling appeared at the Tower. He was jubilant. 

"Wait till you see the picture !" he said to Mack. "It's my 

Mack had known so many fantastic consummations in pic- 
tures that he thought Sterling perhaps had stumbled on some- 
thing new. When the film was ready, Mack and several oth- 
ers saw it in the projection room. It was an astounding 
work. There was no continuity to it at all. Just a lot of glid- 


ing, sinuous movements by Sterling — Narcissus on the ram- 
page, with the camera for his pool. He danced majestically 
and with forlorn grandeur. His mouth was seen in continu- 
ous action, like a ghost making an unheard oration. 

"Scrap the film," said Mack sadly. "It's too revolution- 

"Didn't you get anything out of it?" asked Sterling. 

"Something very valuable," said Mack. "I'll demonstrate 
it in our next picture." 

The idea which Mack had obtained from this failure was 
that of "slow motion." It was now possible for Sennett's 
daring young men to float through the air with the greatest 
of ease. The prosaic world could be halted for a moment in 
the circumambient ether, while a brickbat flattened it to the 
master's comical will. 

Sennett employed his "slow motion" gags in connection 
with several bathing beauty pictures. He originated and de- 
veloped many other photographic illusions; but long after 
they are forgotten, Senentt's contribution to seaside styles 
will be the achievement emphasized by historians. 

If the ladies who unveil nineteen-twentieths of their bod- 
ies at our beaches knew that Mack Sennett was their deliv- 
erer from heavy raiment, they would rear statues to him at 
Atlantic City, Miami and other summer capitals. In fairness, 
we must agree that Jack Curley, the sports promoter, origi- 
nated the one-piece bathing suit while on tour with Annette 


Kellerman, Neptune's favorite daughter. But we must be 
equally just to Mack, and credit him with introduction of the 
one-half -piece bathing suit. 

In the era of which we write, a world war had not ar- 
rived to throttle the pruderies which were the legacy of the 
gay nineties. Bathing suits were almost as long as Mother 
Hubbards. They were dark and sombre bundles, had half- 
sleeves, full skirts and assuredly were designed to encourage 
drowning rather than passion. Long stockings, slippers, and 
bathing caps as big as ostrich nests completed the ensemble. 
Brows were not plucked and hair was unbobbed and wind- 
blown. Women had a perpetually weird look, somewhere be- 
tween amazement and resignation. 

Mack's abbreviations were always an inch or two shorter 
than the prevailing bathing styles, but he had no idea at the 
time that he was becoming the Patou of the sands. Nor did 
he realize that his pictures, seen by millions of women, were 
in effect an emancipation proclamation. He simply was giv- 
ing his audiences what they wanted. And he did more in a 
few years to free the women of America from their horse- 
blanket pagodas than had any other man or woman in cen- 
turies of editorializing. 

His bathing suits were always in excellent taste, daring 
but never vulgar. That he faced great censorial danger in be- 
coming the Schiaparelli of the seaside seems absurd to us 
now, but it was a real enough risk in the pioneer days. 

One must remember that no "good" woman smoked a 


cigarette in public in that lamentable era. A title from 
Lubin's, Her Secret, indicates the domestic turmoil of a 
lady who was a covert cigarette smoker : 

"Jack, I will be equally frank with you. When we were 
married, I thought my little vice would shock you. You had 
placed me, unwillingly, upon such a dazzling pedestal. Per- 
haps I was wrong, but I concealed the little puffs from you, 
and you, silly boy, suspected a conflagration. " 

The Keystone girls had an effective way of selling them- 
selves to Mack as bathing beauties. They would come to the 
Tower, swathed in bathrobes, suddenly unveil, saying : 

"How do you like this, Mr. Sennett?" 

The Lucien LeLong of the surf would bubble, come to a 
boil, his eyes pop out while these angels stood with out- 
spread wings. Then he would say : 

"That's a little too daring," or, "Maybe we should put 
some more material on the hips." 

It was in this Tower that American butterflies were re- 
leased from their woolen cocoons. Come, now, Bishop 
Stunon, hasn't the world been a happier place? 

Chapter 15 


AFTER Mack had finished his morning ablutions, en- 
g % joyed a rub-down and concluded several horizontal 
conferences, he would stand at a window and look down on 
the Allesandro street entrance to his plant. There was a 
sprawling wooden arch above a gate which swung wide each 
day to let in his car (he had a big second-hand Packard 
now), and on the arch, in tremendous lettering, was the sign : 


It was his hallmark of success. He jingled some twenty- 
dollar gold pieces as he gloated over his sign, then put on his 
hat to start on a grand tour of the several stages. He now 
had as many as six companies working simultaneously. 



The Sennett hat was an expensive Panama; nevertheless 
he had taken scissors and cut away the top of the crown! 
This was to let the sunlight play upon his luxuriant hair. He 
said that ventilation made one's scalp healthy and prevented 
baldness. Mack's method was the forerunner of the hatless 
Hollywood era. 

After his tour of the stages and pow-wows with directors, 
Mack would go to the stucco projection room to see rough- 
drafts of his comedies. There were three rows of benches 
in this dim chamber, like the pews of a backwoods church. 
Mack had a large rocking-chair for himself and sat, one leg 
tucked under him, like a half-Buddha. He clasped his hands 
over his belly and analyzed his product. A shallow box, filled 
with sawdust, was within range of Mack's tobacco-shots. He 
kept his crownless hat on while he rocked. If impatient, he 
unfolded his big hands, brought the gold pieces from his 
pocket and played with them. His subordinates did not relish 
the clinking of gold pieces — it signified a royal criticism. 

Mack talked sparingly in the projection room. His lieu- 
tenants listened intently for every meaningful noise that 
might come through the dark stillness. If the King were in 
a good humor, the rocking-chair creaked at a slow, even 
tempo. If it didn't creak at all, it meant that his attention 
was drawn to some flaw in a scene. If the chair set up a 
furious, crunching rasp, someone was about to be repri- 
manded. But the Sennett laughter — or lack of it — was the in- 
fallible test of a comedy's value. 


When a gag failed to make Mack laugh, the men auto- 
matically decided to eliminate it or re-shoot that bit of busi- 
ness. If he did laugh, they made a note of that, too, for 
when Mack Sennett laughed, they knew that ten million 
Americans would howl, and at the same place in the story 
where Sennett had laughed. He was the Abraham Lincoln 
of comedy, by, for and of the people — his taste was the most 
infallible audience-barometer in the history of motion-pic- 
ture burlesque. He never missed. 

He did not have a sense of humor in the accepted inter- 
pretation of the phrase. He had a combination of funda- 
mental qualities that gave the appearance of ominous wis- 
dom. Perhaps he had the greatest sense of the ridiculous of 
any man in modern times. 

Beneath the odd and fantastic didoes of this brooding 
keeper of the clowns and despite his suspicious moods, his 
penchant for baths, for champagne with corned beef and raw 
onions, the truncated Panama hat, his ponderous but in- 
tense love for Mabel Normand, his literary shortcomings 
and educational poverty, his liberality with temperamental 
people on the one hand and unyielding, taskmasterlike be- 
havior on the other — beneath these evidences of muddled 
majesty, one feels, rather than sees, evidences of a com- 
pelling simplicity of purpose, a tenacious, strong, driving 
power that made him the Napoleon of the cap and bells. In 
his almost primitive soul there existed the average man's 
instinctive dread of destiny and innate yearning for revolt. 


He created for himself and for the millions of the earth- 
bound a voodoo heaven of violent laughter. He provided 
a means of emotional escape as raucous as a prison-break. 
His high priests of pantomime caricatured earth's hourly 
problems, injustices and defeats in a manner that seemed 
peculiarly real in the midst of the unreality of the action. 
The tyrannies of smug dignity fell beneath Sennett's slap- 
stick blows. Authority, symbolized by his ubiquitous cops, 
was forever being bludgeoned by the meek and the oppressed 
— and the world laughed. 

Gilbert Seldes's critique contains this excellent analysis : 
"Keystone comedies are predicament, life's little ironies 
translated into grotesques and projected in a ceaseless flow of 
movement. The population of the Keystone world consists of 
scamps, scoundrels, shysters, fakers, tramps — outcasts, in 
short order — with policemen and pretty girls as foils to their 
activity; a little later, the poor and oppressed waiters and 
barbers and show-girls appear; but the successful, well- 
groomed, alert and smart American never appears." 

The Keystone lot was expanded to include twenty-eight 
acres, including a hill on which were to be seen, as Mr. 
Keats exclaimed, "What maidens loth! What mad pursuit!" 
Clusters of new buildings grew up about the old shacks and 
shanties. Architecturally the Edendale colony had begun with 
little, and the more structures added to the scene, the greater 
the air of hopeless confusion. 


Mack was pleased with his environment, with his Tower 
and the coffin-like cutting and projection room. He permit- 
ted no ladies in the cutting room. He had discovered a dis- 
quieting flirtation in progress there one day. He liked to sit 
in masculine solitude, rocking and chewing his cuddy, the 
sawdust-box within range. Keystone pictures were his life. 
The architectural shortcomings of the plant worried him not 
at all. 

Contrast this environment with the Alhambra throne- 
rooms of certain present-day picture executives. I am think- 
ing of one whose offices look like the offspring of a mor- 
ganatic marriage between the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles 
and the gentlemen's rest room at the Mills Hotel. 

A man, of course, need not do business in a pig sty to be 
successful or worthy of honors, but so often do we find in 
Hollywood's daffy Taj Mahals posturing gentlemen, whose 
ambassadorial hides, when scratched, reveal the churl, the 
witling or the prig. Olympian Hollywood, with its anemic 
Joves and its court of yea-saying demigods — the world's 
backyard of artistic confusion! 

Sennett had a fierce and sensitive pride that occasionally 
revealed itself, despite his boiler-maker's bulk and his stoical 
exercise of self-control. He did not like to be argued with 
or contradicted (who does?). He might be swayed if his 
subjects made the process painless and indirect. One could 


not predict just how he might respond to an outright criti- 
cism or a display of insurgent speech. 

One day he asked his secretary, Walter Klinger: "How 
do you like me best? With or without a drink?" 

Mr. Klinger had had an exceptionally busy and wearisome 
afternoon. "I'm going to tell you the truth. When you have 
a few under your belt, you're a prince. When you're stone 
sober, you're the most annoying slave-driver in the world." 

Mr. Sennett straightway went to his cupboard and poured 
himself a drink. "It does make me feel more human, at 

One of his favorite ways of answering an unwelcome ar- 
gument was to ask his critic to rise and look out the Tower 
window. Then, Mack would point down to the big arch 
over the gate and ask : 

"Is your name on any buildings or gates?" 

Mack allowed practical jokes ; in fact, he encouraged them, 
unless they were on him. Once at a beach house party at 
Santa Monica, and on a signal by the prankish host, the 
guests teamed up, threw Sennett to the floor and filled his 
trousers with sand. He did not speak to any of these gen- 
tlemen for months afterward. 

Mack always entered through the big gate, whether he ar- 
rived in his car or on foot. He liked to pass under the arch 
that bore his name so ostentatiously. The watchman swung 
the gate wide for the King, when he arrived in the morning 


and when he departed at night. Other members of the troupe 
used a small gate which led to an alley-way between Mabel 
Normand's dressing room and the projection room. 

One day Slim Summerville and Bobby Dunn decided to 
play a rather messy joke on Actor Neil Hamilton, the most 
dignified and best-dressed performer of the Sennett forces. 
Summerville filled a bucket with stale beer and other things 
and stood guard behind a coping on Mabel's roof. Dunn was 
to act as the lookout man. When Hamilton arrived, the sig- 
nal was to be a cough. Then Summerville would let the well- 
groomed artist have the burden of the pail. 

Dunn lurked in the alley-way and saw Hamilton arrive. 
The marked man was with Sennett ! Mack, contrary to cus- 
tom, started for the small gate, arm-in-arm with Hamilton. 
At this moment a friend of Mr. Hamilton called from the 
street. Hamilton excused himself and Mr. Sennett continued 
on through the gate. Dunn ran to warn Summerville. At 
this unfortunate moment, Mr. Sennett coughed. Summer- 
ville answered the signal with a rousing deluge from the 
bucket. It was a good job. Sennett looked as though he had 
just finished a forced march through the sewers of Paris. 
Many persons had witnessed this horrendous affront to 
the King's person. And one and all began to run as though 
for their jobs. When Sennett cleared his eyes of liquid 
debris, and saw dimly the many winged comedians, he could 
not be sure who had perpetrated the outrage. He staggered 


to his office, mad as a wet lion, and did not know for years 
who had emptied the brimming pail. 

Sennett once had been absent in New York on business. 
The Keystone gateman fell ill and a substitute took his place. 
When the comedians learned that Mack was due to return, 
they went into hiding and pretended that no work was being 

Mack drove up to the gate, and was amazed to find no sign 
of life on the lot. "Well," he said to the new watchman, 
"why don't you open the gate?" 

"Who are you?" asked the watchman. 

"I'm Mack Sennett." 

The watchman shook his head. "That's what they all say. 
You can't get by with that." 

The tramp comedian, Joe Jackson, had a passion for elec- 
trical jokes. He wired Del Henderson's automobile so that 
Del got a shock, no matter what part of the car he touched. 

One day Jackson was expecting Sennett on the set. He 
wired a chair so that anyone who sat in it would receive 
a terrific electrical jolt. He waited until Sennett appeared, 
then ushered him to the chair. After the King of Comedy 
had sat down, Jackson turned on the juice. 

It must have been an excruciating experience, but Sennett 
never batted an eye. He sat there for half a minute, then 
rose, yawned, and went away. Jackson was of the belief 


that the electricity had not been turned on and was about to 
test his device when a big carpenter appeared on the set. He 
had an axe. He went directly to the wired chair and sol- 
emnly began to demolish it. 

At another time, Jackson told Sennett he had a picture 
that would "knock the spectators out of their seats." 

"I've already seen parts of it in the projection room," said 
Sennett. "I don't think it will make history." 

"Will you look at the whole thing tonight?" asked Jack- 
son. "Fill up the projection room, and if it don't knock 'em 
off their seats, I'll work the rest of my contract for nothing." 

"It's a go," said Sennett. 

Mack sat in his rocking-chair to view the Jackson pic- 
ture. All three rows of benches were filled to capacity. At 
the first bit of business, Sennett did not laugh, but the en- 
tire first row of spectators let out a howl. Presently the 
second row gave a similar demonstration. Sennett wondered 
what they were yelling at. The picture so far had seemed 
dull and pointless to him. Just then the denizens of the third 
row began to shriek. This show of emotion was a mystery to 
Sennett until he felt a fiery current running through his hips. 
With unimpaired dignity he arose and addressed Jackson in 
the darkness : 

"Joe, this picture has less juice than your batteries." 

Jackson was fond of peanuts, and, when anyone asked for 
some, would point to his pocket and say: "Help yourself!" 
Jackson usually carried garter snakes in that pocket. 


Although it became increasingly hard to reach Sennett in 
his ivory tower, he sometimes relaxed and listened to com- 
plaints, petitions and crack-pot ideas by the lesser lights of 
the studio. Once a man or woman did manage to get past 
Abdul, Sennett listened patiently to the supplicant's woes. 

Young as he still was, he had a sort of patriarchal man- 
ner during private audiences. Perhaps these occasional talks 
about matters not entirely of a professional nature gave him 
a short recess from prodigious labors. He had his own wor- 
risome problems and griefs, but hid them successfully while 
listening to the groans of others. 

One day when a bathing beauty applied to him for domes- 
tic advice, Mack had just received a telegram telling of his 
father's death in Canada. Also, he had just heard that D. W. 
Griffith, in a purported interview, had said he was taking 
charge of Keystone production (a report repudiated by 
Griffith after Mack had issued a blistering denial). Too, he 
was up to his ears in a fight to keep pirates from stealing his 

Nevertheless, Sennett sat calmly while the young lady 
told him she was going to divorce her husband. She had 
been a bonbon dipper in a candy factory before a molecule 
of fame had come to her, via a Sennett bathing suit. 

"I didn't know you were married," said Mack. 

The young lady walked up and down the floor with a 
Ziegfeldian sway. "We got married before I made good. 
He's just a punk of a kid." 


"Has he been unfaithful?" asked Mack. 

"Hell, no ! It's just the other way around." 

"Does he beat you or bawl you out?" 

The lass sniggered. "I'd like to see him !" 

"Is he lazy?" 

"No, he's an elevator pilot downtown." 


"Not specially, but he ain't my type." 

"Then why do you want a divorce?" 

She grew confidential. "I got a career now, and he's just 
an ordinary kid from Utah. He can't see how our lives 
had growed apart. That I'm different." 

"What makes you think you're different?" asked Mack. 

She flounced pertly. "I'm s'prised you ask me that, Mr. 
Sennett? You ought to know a star can't settle down just 
to fry eggs and have babies." 

Mack looked out the window for a while. Then he said : 
"In the first place, you're not a star. In the second, you've 
got a big head, which means you'll never be a star. In the 
third, fried eggs and babies make the world go 'round, 
which means if you don't want 'em you don't deserve to be 
a star. Who's your sweetie?" 

Amazed by his deductive powers, the lass gulped and ad- 
mitted : "I'm in love with a big newspaper editor who under- 
stands me." 

"He sounds brilliant," said Sennett. "Well, it's your do. 
But if you had half a brain, you'd go home and be darned 


glad some kid loves you, because some day you'll wish to 
the Lord you had somebody to fry eggs for." 

"This editor is a prince," said the young lady. "He thinks 
I got talent." 

"Yeah," said Mack. "I know what he thinks you got." 

Two weeks after the young lady had obtained a divorce, 
she came screaming onto a stage where Sennett was con- 
ferring with his aides. "What's wrong with you now, sis- 
ter?" asked Sennett. 

"The rat !" she said. "The rat!" 

"Who, the newspaper editor?" 

"No. Did you hear what my ex-husband went and did?" 

"I don't keep up with society," said Mack. 

"He never told me about his uncle. The cheat ! His uncle 
died and left him a million dollars !" 

Mack jingled his gold pieces. "That's what I call under- 

Chapter 16 


THE world boasts three everlasting types of men dis- 
tinguished for their unlimited garrulity. Each of these 
loquacious groups has its predominant topic of conversation. 
One coterie, the old soldiers, talk ceaselessly of their battles. 
A second group, the old roues, speak of scintillant belles of 
yesteryear; and a third, the old college graduates, descant 
endlessly on their ancient football heroes. 

Of the three reminiscent fraternities, the old grads are 
loudest and longest in dissertation. In America, entire 
reunion-weeks are spent in arguments about former stars 
of the gridiron — Thorpe of Carlisle, Brickley of Harvard, 
Coy of Yale, Heston of Michigan, Oliphant of Army, Eck- 
ersall of Chicago or Grange of Illinois. Who was the best 



at doing what? Which one excelled in every department of 
the game? 

If the motion-picture industry had an alumni associa- 
tion, the subject of prodigious custard-pie throwers nat- 
urally would arise. Many illustrious names would roll off 
the tongues of these old grads. There was Ben Turpin, a 
masterful pie-carrier and an elusive chocolate-eclair strate- 
gist. Charlie Chaplin unquestionably ranks high among the 
forward passers of the dough-skin. He excelled at diagnos- 
ing the pastry-play and was dazzling as a defensive quarter- 
bake. Ford Sterling was a great crust-gainer and perpetrator 
of lap-dissolve tarts. Ferocious W. C. Fields was an iron 
man at right guard and took the pie in his stride — and also 
in his face, which was a "natural" for bucking-the-pie. Bus- 
ter Keaton was a phenomenal on-side pie-kicker. The great 
tackle Wallace ('Tie Face") Beery, once saved the game for 
Custard College by a black-berry cobbler drop kick with the 
score tied and ten seconds before the fade out. 

But all these pie-tossers were mere petit s fours twiddlers 
when compared with that greatest custard slinger of all time, 
the mightiest triple-threat man that ever stepped on the 
waffle-iron, the All-American of All-Americans, the su- 
preme grand lama of the meringue, the Hercules of the 
winged dessert, the Ajax of the hurtling fritter, the paragon 
of patty-casters, the unconquerable and valiant flinger of 
open and closed mince models, the monarch of the zooming 
rissoles. . . . 


Roscoe ("Fatty") Arbuckle! 

There was a full-bake for any team ! He had all the quali- 
fications that a champion must possess : form, speed, power, 
co-ordination, temperament and an ability to take as well 
as give pastry. When Fatty threw a pie, it stayed thrown. 
He had the control of a major-league pitcher and loved his 

Although he weighed 320 pounds, in season, Roscoe was 
as nimble as a trout. His so-called fat was mostly muscle. 
His success at first was attributed to beginner's luck, but 
after he had thrown some ten tons of messy delicacies with- 
out a wild pitch, he was placed on the varsity team to stay. 
He often was suspected of professionalism, but refuted the 
charge with proof that he was working his way through the 
cook book. 

Sceptics who arbitrarily state that pie-throwing requires 
neither intelligence, strength nor courage don't know what 
they are talking about. They are of the same stripe as those 
decadent critics who ignorantly pass over all matters be- 
yond their comprehension, such as, say, the honeymoon of 
the praying mantis. 

"The praying mantis doesn't suffer at all," I've heard 
them say. "He doesn't know what it's all about." 

The hell he doesn't! Who are these idiots-savants to de- 
cry the solemn struggle of the male mantis, as he is being 
devoured by his mate, and at a moment when life seems to 
hold some meaning after all? Professor Ecuperp of Norom 


University should hang his head in shame for having pub- 
lished a smug brochure belittling the death-ecstasy of the 
mantis religiosa. (A letter should be written to the Times.) 

Drunk or sober, Fatty Arbuckle could deliver a bake-oven 
grenade from any angle, sitting, crouching, lying down with 
a good book, standing on one leg or hanging by his toes 
from a pergola. He was ambidexterous and could hurl two 
pies at once in opposite directions. 

After his ex-communication as a Thespian, due to a moral 
public's mistaken belief in his guilt in causing the bath-tub 
death of Virginia Rappe at a San Francisco hotel, Arbuckle 
was like a bee out of honey. He used to sit on the side-lines 
and watch other candidates for the team. And, tolerant 
though he was, by nature and from adversity, it hurt him to 
see new athletes throw their pies so listlessly and without art. 
You can't just chuck a pie, willy-nilly, as though it were a 
Noel Coward epigram. 

But there are moments of optimism even in the con- 
demned man's cell, and Fatty's heart was glad when comedy 
producers called upon him to coach the pie-throwers. Luckily 
the censors and purists were temporarily unaware that Ar- 
buckle was permitted to make a living in this manner. They 
did not know that for almost a year the pies were tainted. 

The big fellow got a vicarious thrill out of his duties as 
a Knute Rockne of the Custards. He did much to keep alive 
the old traditions and showed his charges the correct stance, 
how to time their throws and how to attain a follow-through 


movement. As in golf, a man must keep his eye on the pie. 
As in baseball, you must play the pie ; don't let the pie play 
you. As in boxing, you must lead with the pie. 

And, although barred from active service, Arbuckle still 
was the master pie-thrower. Like Casanova, in another and 
older branch of sport, he never lost his knack. 

He had been a mountain of good nature, but when the 
snoopers kept hounding him, taking away his bread as well 
as his reputation, he began to wish that he had been born a 
mule, the better to carry the heaviest burden life can know, 
a broken heart. 

Roscoe Arbuckle was born at Smith Center, Kansas, in 
1887. He moved with his parents to California, became a 
scene-shifter at the Pike Theater, Long Beach, then went 
into vaudeville as a black-face monologist. His burnt cork 
debut was at the Pantages' Theater in Seattle. 

Afterward he sang tenor in a tabloid musical comedy unit 
which toured Canada and Western United States. He fell in 
love with a prima donna, Araminta Durfee, and married 
her on the stage of a rustic theater at Long Beach. They ran 
out of money on their wedding trip to the Orient, principally 
because Arbuckle ate three steaks at a sitting. Fortunately 
they had a round-trip ticket and came back to California to 
seek work. 

Mack Sennett hired Arbuckle as an extra at $5 a day. 


When he brought this fortune home, Minta said: "I don't 
believe you earned it. You must have won it at craps." 

The remembrance of musical days never left Sennett, and 
when he learned that Minta had been a prima donna, he 
hired her at once. He also paid her the unusual honor of per- 
mitting her to come occasionally into the projection room to 
view the "rushes." 

"She knows entertainment," said Sennett. "She's a prima 

When Fred Mace died, Sennett looked for a fat star to 
team with Ford Sterling. He promoted Arbuckle to that 
station. Fatty appeared in forty-seven comedies the first 
year. He directed forty others during his four years with 

The Arbuckles were the first married couple to work for 
Mack. He liked to take them on pleasure trips. In 19 14 he 
invited them to accompany him to San Francisco, there to see 
the first pre-view in the history of motion pictures. 

This event was the inspirational child of Sid Grauman, 
bouncing manager of the Imperial Theater in Market Street. 
Mr. Grauman now is Hollywood's foremost concocter of 
stage prologues and film premieres. He was for a brief time 
a member of a commission appointed to beautify Los 
Angeles. He resigned in a pet when the City Fathers asked 
him to submit a plan for interior decoration of a public 
comfort station. 


The San Francisco pre-view was the first edition of Jack 
London's Sea Wolf, with Hobart Bosworth. Jack London, 
Grauman, Jesse Lasky and Grauman's father had been pals 
in Alaska during the gold-rush. London had been press- 
agent for a theatrical benefit at Dawson in 1898, an enter- 
prise sponsored by the Graumans. 

An audience of newspaper men, motion-picture executives, 
stars and writers attended the pre-view. At the close of the 
performance there were speeches, and the cry of "Author! 
Author!" resounded for the first time in a motion-picture 

Mr. London slumped in his seat, overcome with embar- 
rassment. He had been brave in other situations. He had 
defied many Alaskan blizzards and, recklessly enough, was 
one of the first men to wear a wrist-watch. But now a great 
panic possessed him. 

The clamor increased. Finally, Mr. London got to his 
feet. His face was red and he clutched at a neighbor's chair 
to keep from falling in the aisle. He made his speech, which 

"Ladies and gentlemen . . ." He hesitated and swayed. 
"All I can just say is : 'Thank you,' and now I'll buy a 

There was great applause, partly for the speech and 
partly for the invitation. The pre-viewers went to the near- 
est saloon, Mr. London in the lead. There he felt more re- 


laxed and told stories with an eloquence that belied his 
earlier confusion. 

It will be remembered that Tom Ince owned ten per cent of 
the Keystone stock; so he was glad to do professional favors 
for Sennett. 

Whenever Ince had a big picture in progress, he would 
telephone the news to Mack. "Tuesday I'm going to have five 
hundred soldiers/' or, "We're going to do 'Bull Run' with 
a lot of cannon," or "Wednesday we are having three 
hundred Indians and two hundred cowboys." 

Mack would concoct a story suitable to the background 
of the Ince super-special, take his comedians to Santa Mon- 
ka, stop the dramatic director and shoot scenes with his 
clowns in front of the Ince actors. These "spectacles'' en- 
hanced Sennett's reputation. His competitors could not af- 
ford such grand-scale efforts. 

During one of the "borrowed background" episodes, Sen- 
nett put Fatty Arbuckle before an army of Ince soldiers. 
Mack had interrupted the "Spanish War" at ten o'clock in 
the morning. The important part of Ince's scene depended 
upon the discovery by the warriors of an almost-dead baby. 
The Ince battalions were grouped about this "dying" child 
when Sennett and his comedians drove up to the camp. 

"I think a baby would go great in comedy," Sennett told 

"Go ahead and shoot," said Tom, "but be as quiet as pos- 


sible. We had a hell of a time getting that kid to sleep." 
The baby slept through most of the sequence, but when 
the big chase occurred, General Fatty Arbuckle tripped on 
his sabre. He crashed to the ground and upset so many props 
that the baby began to howl. After the comedians had gone, 
it took Ince's men four expensive hours to restore the child 
to slumber. 

During one of his friendly raids on Ince's canyon, Sennett 
bumped into a huge character actor who wore a lush false 

"That's a lulu of a muff," said Sennett. "What's your 

"Nick Cogley. I used to work for Selig." 

"If you'd come work for me, I might make a come- 
dian out of you." 

By Sennett' s alchemy Cogley was transformed from a 
Protean character actor into a custard-pie-target comedian. 

Always on the lookout for "backgrounds," Sennett heard 
of a forthcoming celebration, Juanipero Sierra, at San 
Diego. He took the Arbuckles, Nick Cogley and his favorite 
director, Dick Jones, to the festival. 

There was a big parade. Sennett began the first scene in 
the lobby of the U. S. Grant Hotel. Minta Arbuckle acted 
the part of Cogley's wife. Cogley was supposed to be very 
jealous of Arbuckle and chased him to the street, a story 
device intended to project the comedians into the parade. 


The actors ran back and forth along the line of march, 
over and under everything. From the moment they started 
the first scene, Cogley had a feeling of utmost dread. He 
could not explain it. This premonition affected his work, 
and, after the picture had been made, Sennett asked him : 

"What the hell was wrong with you today? You didn't 
have much pep." 

"I don't know," said Cogley. "I just had a funny feeling." 

They returned to Edendale that night. The next morning 
Sennett notified big Cogley that he was to work with Ar- 
buckle at Venice, the Coney Island of Los Angeles. Nick 
had another "funny feeling," but suppressed it so as not to 
worry George Nichols, who was directing his maiden picture. 

The troupe reached Venice at one o'clock in the after- 
noon. Their first location was in front of the Thompson 
roller-coaster. They began a chase around the Mecca Bar. 
Arbuckle dashed out of the bar. Cogley ran to the fore- 
ground to fire a shot. As Cogley charged into the fore- 
ground, Director Nichols called out : 

"Stop, Nick! Stop!" 

The two hundred and fifty-pound comedian pivoted. His 
weight was too much for his right leg. His shin bone gave 
way. As he fell, Nichols called out: 

"Come on, Nick. Get up." 

"I can't get up. It's busted." 

Arbuckle lifted Cogley to a chair and Nichols took hold 
of his leg. "Yes," he said, "it's broken. Look how the foot 


dangles." Arbuckle called a doctor. An ambulance took Cog- 
ley to an emergency hospital. 

The doctor put a silver bar and twelve screws in Cogley's 

Cogley was through as a comedian, but as soon as he could 
get about on crutches began to work as a director. He was 
"tipped or!" that a director, to make good with Sennett, had 
to be hard-boiled. 

"I'll be hard-boiled," said Cogley, "as soon as I get off 
these crutches." 

Sennett one day came into the shack which the men used 
as a dressing room. Slim Summerville, Arbuckle, Sterling 
and others were present as Cogley greeted Mack with a 
cheery: "How do you do?" 

Sennett looked at him and frowned. "Go to hell !" 

After the King of Comedy had retired, Cogley said : "Now 
that was a fine way to answer me, wasn't it?" 

Sennett now reappeared in the doorway and said to Cog- 
ley: " 'How do you do,' don't mean anything. 'Go to hell/ 
means something." 

One day while Cogley was napping, Mabel Normand stole 
his crutches and hid them. When Cogley awakened he was 

"Where's my crutches, Mabel?" he said. "I got to go 
some place." 


"Where do you have to go?" asked Mabel. 

"It's a personal matter," said Cogley. "Give me my 
crutches or I'll break your neck." 

Mabel pretended to relent. She said she would get the 
crutches. She was gone an hour. Cogley was furious. When 
Mabel returned, she said : 

"I tried to get the crutches, but forgot where I hid them." 

Some gentlemen friends had to assist Cogley to the place 
he wished to visit. They found his crutches that night be- 
hind an ice-box in the Keystone cashier's bungalow. 

Cogley had trouble with his leg during all that year. Once 
he was in bed for several weeks. While he was lying there, 
Mabel and Director Walter Wright brought him some flow- 
ers. Mabel announced that they were half-way through a pic- 
ture and wanted to use Cogley 's house for a fire scene. 

"Oh, no, you won't!" said the invalid. "You'll not use 
this house." 

"Oh, yes, we will," said Mabel. "Did you bring the smoke 
pots, Walter?" 

"Yes," said Walter, "we've got everything." 

The tricksters set the smoke pots going until the air was 
thick and stifling. Cogley roared: "Open those windows, 
damn it ! Give me some air." 

"Give him some air," said Mabel. 

The two fiends departed as smoke poured from the Cog- 
ley windows. They ran out of Cogley's door, yelling: "Fire! 


Fire!" Thinking it was a genuine fire, neighbors turned in 
an alarm. 

In the early days film piracies were so numerous that each 
company displayed its trade-mark in every scene. Sometimes 
a label would appear incongruously on a tree, a door or a 
wall. Sennett thought this an offensive intrusion by the com- 
mercial world. He would not permit such marks on his 
scenery ; he claimed their presence destroyed the illusion. 

Not only were some of his prints pirated and copied by 
freebooters, but his gags often were stolen. He thought there 
was a leak and decided to employ detectives. Furthermore, 
they would check up on the activities of his companies when 
he was not present. 

One of these stool pigeons was retained to spy on a troupe 
which Fred Fishback was directing. There was to be a scene 
in which an automobile would run into a big tree. A charge 
of dynamite was to be detonated in the tree to coincide with 
the crash. 

Fishback's assistant, Al McNeil, went on location to pre- 
pare the blast. The stool pigeon suspected McNeil of some- 
thing nihilistic and followed him. McNeil placed a generator 
behind one tree, strung a wire across the road to the spot 
where the crash was scheduled to occur, then put a charge 
of dynamite in the tree which was to be rammed. 

The stool pigeon couldn't figure out what was afoot. He 


went to the first tree, where the generator was in place. 
McNeil meanwhile was inspecting his job at the powder 
magazine. The detective decided to see for himself what 
manner of gadget McNeil had installed. He began working 
the generator-pump up and down. This set off the powder 
across the road. There was a great roar and McNeil left 
the ground. He fell unconscious. His hands, face and scalp 
were singed. He was taken to the hospital. He couldn't see 
for nine days. 

"We're going to have no more stool pigeons," said Mack, 
as he paid off his detectives. "They're too curious." 

Director Cogley filmed the first automobile road race to be 
shown in a Keystone comedy. Jenkins, a camera man, set up 
his tripod between two fairly large trees. As the automo- 
bile racers came toward the camera, one of the machines 
blew a tire. The car headed straight for Jenkins, cut the two 
trees off as evenly as though they had been carefully hewn 
down, smashed Jenkins against a stump, and killed him. The 
tripod legs of the camera were cut off, but the film remained 
intact. The sequence was run as part of a comedy and no 
audience knew that the scene had been that of a real and 
fatal accident. 

Cogley was an unfailing victim of Mabel Normand's prac- 
tical jokes. Whenever she enraged the hard-boiled director, 


she screamed and ran. He was unable to catch her, what 
with his faulty leg. 

She always made up with him, however. He reluctantly 
forgave her. One night, when Cogley was about to leave 
the studio, Mabel came up to him. "Let's be friends, Nick." 

"All right," he said, "but try to act more civilized." 

She sat on his lap, kissed him and put her arms about his 
neck. She was in tears as she stroked his face and said : "Life 
is too beautiful and sweet to have people go on being en- 
emies. We're true blue friends, aren't we, Nickie?" 

He was deeply stirred. "I'm glad you've decided to settle 
down and behave yourself." 

When Cogley got on the street car, the conductor and pas- 
sengers began to laugh. A woman handed him a mirror from 
her bag. He looked in it to find one side of his face painted 
red and the other side black. Mabel, while stroking his face 
and sobbing, had had red grease paint concealed in one hand 
and black paint palmed in the other. She played this trick on 
Cogley three times in three weeks. 

An itinerant camera man came to the studio one day to 
take post-card pictures. These were the first fan photo- 
graphs. Cogley refused to give the man an order. 

Everyone else but Cogley began to receive these post-cards 
with requests for autographs. He said he felt slighted at get- 
ting no fan mail. Then, one morning, he came in to find a 
stack of letters a foot high on his desk. He began to open 


his mail curiously. There were pamphlets from all manner of 
specialists whose literature warned that: "Delay is Danger- 
ous," and "Why don't you write?" and claimed to cure every 
known disease. 

Mabel Normand had diligently answered patent-medicine 
advertisements and signed Cogley's name. He received inti- 
mate literature, the bulk of which recommended remedies for 
feminine ills, at intervals for three years. 

One day an extremely hammy type of actor applied for a 
job and Mabel said: "Let's frame this guy." 

There was a wide stairway used by the Keystoners in 
many pictures. Mabel brought in the applicant and intro- 
duced Hughey Fay to him as "Mr. Sennett." The ham was 

"We'll give you a test right off," said the bogus Mr. 

Mabel summoned everyone to the staircase set. They re- 
sponded, armed with breakaway bottles, plaster urns, slats, 
felt bricks and other Keystone paraphernalia. A camera was 
set up. The counterfeit Mr. Sennett told the actor to come 
down the stairs. The assembled cast began to shower him 
with vases, jugs, mirrors and other brittle props. 

Sennett heard the horrible uproar and came to investigate. 
By the time he reached the scene, the wags had vanished. The 
actor was alone among the wreckage. 

"What's all the rumpus about?" Mack asked the stranger. 


The good man was groggy but very happy. "Why," he 
said, "Mr. Sennett has just given me a test for an engage- 

'That so?" said Mack. "Well, I am Mr. Sennett. You get 
the hell out of here !" He booted the ham off the stage and 
off the lot amid cries of the victim: "Wait till I tell Mr. 
Sennett ! He'll discharge you." 

The three things long identified with Keystone comedies 
were the chase, the bathing beauties and the custard pie. 
They were "staples." 

The evolution of the custard pie was more or less acci- 
dental. The first deeds of motion-picture comedy violence 
were done with cudgels. Perhaps the term "slap-stick" re- 
ferred to Harlequin's wooden sword. Sennett used bats and 
slats, and then tried mallets. It was not particularly funny 
if a man was crowned with a small hammer, but if a mace 
with a head as big as a churn were used, then it was funny. 
Sennett employed gigantic mallets. 

After the big-mallet gag palled on the audiences, Sennett 
introduced bricks. These were made of felt, but looked like 
real bricks. Once the audience learned that they were felt 
dornicks, that gag also languished. Sennett thereupon intro- 
duced the "breakaway" bottle, made of a thin layer of resin. 
These bottles seemed very, very funny until the customers 
heard that they were not made of glass and were harmless. 
Sennett now created the breakaway vase and other fragile 


objets d'art. These were made of plaster-of -Paris, thinly 
moulded. When all these bludgeons and breakaways had been 
worked to the limit, the Keystoners were in need of some 
new weapon. One day when a scene in a bakery was being 
enacted, Ford Sterling picked up a pie. He hurled it, and 
the audience-reaction was enormous. The vogue for pies 
lasted for years, reaching its height when Arbuckle was in 
his comic heyday. 

Although the first pies were custard, blackberry or blue- 
berry pies were preferred. The darkly filled pies photo- 
graphed more plainly than the custards or meringues. Also, 
when flies gathered on custard, they showed up clearly on 
the screen and served to nauseate fastidious movie patrons. 

In view of the many stars who were graduated from Cus- 
tard College, it seems odd that none of them received much 
acclaim in the press until as late as 191 5. 

In 1 91 3, Eugene V. Brewster's pioneer fan magazine, the 
Motion Picture Mirror, conducted a nation-wide popularity 
contest. Seven million motion-picture fans voted. The win- 
ner was a young player named Romaine Fielding, a Lubin 
actor, who wore a rakish Panama hat, with the sweat-band 
showing, and a high collar. In this contest Mary Pickford 
was twenty-fifth, and Wallace Reid stood thirtieth! There 
were no Keystone players represented at all on this list, al- 
though the custard throwers of yesterday are among the ones 
remembered best of all movie pioneers. 

Chapter 17 


FORD STERLING, chief of the Keystone Cops, received 
a salary of $200 a week — a large salary for any police 
chief, real or make-believe. 

His contract, in the summer of 191 3, committed him to a 
final six months' service under the Sennett management. 
Rumor persisted that he was seeking employment elsewhere. 
He was admittedly the screen's premier comedian. Perhaps 
he might even form a company of his own, himself the un- 
disputed star. Broncho Billy Anderson of Essanay had done 
as much — and Anderson had become a millionaire. 

When these disquieting reports reached Sennett, he sought 
in every way to pamper his police chief. He sent him a case 
of Budweiser and ordered a brand-new uniform, custom- 



built and embellished with gold epaulets and chevrons. He 
also tried to propitiate his fractious star with a new cap, 
subduing the temptation to keep it for himself. 

The hint of Sterling's apostasy had grown into the pro- 
portions of a haunting threat. Even Pathe Lehrman began 
to look like a studio Cassius. Sennett was seeing daggers 
under every toga. Evidence was accumulating that his two 
pro-consuls might even go so far as to found a company 
of their own. 

Mack summoned Lehrman. There was no preliminary ex- 

"What's your grievance?" 

"Well, if you must know, you're making a stooge out of 

Sennett was disrobing for the bath. "In what way, my 
fine- feathered friend?" 

"Every way. I'm getting no billing. I work day and night, 
and I'm not even a shadow to the public. Everything is 'Mack 
Sennett/ It's 'Mack Sennett this/ and 'Mack Sennett that.' " 

The King of Comedy stepped into his bath and began to 
wet his chest. "Look here, you're going ham on me." He 
shook a sponge admonishingly. "And so is Sterling. You're 
making $125 a week. That's not hay. As a matter of fact, 
that's half what I draw." 

"Let's concede that point," said Lehrman. "But I hate to 
be an underpaid nobody." 

"All right, Pathe. You can have a fifty-dollar raise. This 

Dorothy La Rue puts the finger on cowering Wallace Beery, while 
Sheriff (two-gun) Polly Moran invokes the law. The restraining hand 
of Billic Bennett dissuades Wayland Trask from assaulting an officer. 

FE, Fl, FO, FUM! 225 

is no day to quarrel about money with an old pal. Now that 
that's off our chest, I want to tell you something. It's about 

"What's she up to now?" 

Mack captured the soap and contemplated it dreamily. 
"Well, Pathe, we've been pals long enough for you to advise 
me. Do you think it would be bad business for Mabel and 
me to get married ?" 

Pathe appeared to be thinking. Sennett took his silence for 
encouragement. He went on : "Of course, I'm not telling you 
anything new. She was just a kid when we met. I've kind of 
fathered her since then. Now she's grown up, and she's a 
great balance wheel for me. What do you think ?" 

Pathe blurted out: "You may as well know the truth. 
Mabel and I are in love. Now you know." 

Sennett sat up and stared hard at Pathe. "Take your jokes 
somewhere else." 

Pathe was pale. "It's no joke. I meant to tell you before." 

Sennett gripped the side of the tub. "How long's this been 
going on?" 

"Since Tia Juana. It began down there." 

Mack was dazed. "You and Mabel!" he said. "You and 
Mabel in love !" 

Pathe started for the door. "I'm quitting." 

"Just a minute," said Mack. "We'll talk about that some 
other time. On your way out, tell Sterling I want to see him." 

The Chief of the Keystone Cops found Sennett on his 


back, undergoing a Turkish version of a Swedish massage. 
Sterling was wearing the new gold-inlaid uniform and cap. 

"Say, Ford, I've got some news for you. I called you 
here to offer you a new contract. A honey." 

"How much money ?" 

"I've decided to raise you to $750 a week. You're in a 
class by yourself now. It's unheard of. We'll sign up soon's 
Abdul gives me the alcohol finish." 

Sterling's mouth gaped. Then he let out a great whoop 
and threw his new hat to the ceiling. It fell to the floor and 
lay there as he danced wildly. 

Sennett beamed, forgetting for the moment about the 
cap, Pathe and Mabel. "I knew you'd be happy about it. 
Abdul, go open some Budweiser for Mr. Sterling." 

"That confirms it!" Sterling yelled as he jumped up and 
down on the cap. 

"It does me good to see you so happy," said Sennett pater- 
nally; "it's a hell of a big salary." 

Sterling subdued himself long enough to say: "Mack, I 
always had a suspicion I was pretty good. Now I know it. 
If I'm worth $750 to you, I ought to be worth at least that 
much to myself. I'm quitting and going into business on my 

Sennett staggered under the blow. "Abdul," he said to 
his Turkish retainer, "never mind the Budweiser, and bring 
that hat here. After all, it's my property." 

FE, Fl, FO, FUM! 227 

Sterling announced with finality: "Rule No. i. There'll 
be no uniforms in my new company.'' 

Two cataclysmic shocks in one day upset Mack's placidity. 
He tried to restore his dream world by dining with Mabel. 
After an hour of evasions, Mack suddenly asked her: "When 
do you and Lehrman intend to get married?" 

She pretended neither surprise nor innocence. "I thought 
you'd ask me that. You've been behaving all evening as if you 
had something on your mind.' , 

He braced himself. "So it's true? Suppose I object to this 
Austrian prince of yours?" 

"You suppose lots of things. Suppose you quit supposing." 

"I always thought me and you were going to get mar- 

"I always thought so too. My error." 

Sennett beamed. "I'll have to get you something pretty 
nice for Christmas." 

"A wedding ring would do. You can get one at almost 
any jeweler's." 

Mack and Mabel were riding horse-back a few days after 
their emotional rapprochement. He was very glum and Mabel 
asked : 

"Still sulking about Pathe Lehrman?" 

"Sort of," said Sennett, "but in a different way than you 


think. He and Sterling are going to quit, and it leaves me in 
a hole." 

"Sterling's not the only comedian in the world." 

"He's got the public, though, and it's a big blow to my 
pride to have him quit." He rode along in silence for several 
minutes, then said: "What's the use of kidding? I'm wor- 
ried stiff. I lay awake last night thinking over this situation, 
then I had the funniest sort of hunch." 

"About what?" 

"Do you remember when we both were at Biograph, and 
I took you one night to the American Theater?" 

"Sure. In Eighth Avenue. We took a bus ride up River- 
side Drive." 

"Do you remember the act that impressed us most?" 

"Yes, it was pantomime, with a little fellow in a box, 
watching the show and pretending he was drunk." 

"That's it. It was called A Night in a London Club. 
Wasn't it A Night in a London Music Hall?" 
I don't think so. I think it was London Club." 

Sennett lapsed into a silence. Then : "Well, I've been try- 
ing to think of the name of that fellow in the box. I think 
it was Cunningham or Cantwell or something. I can't re- 
member the darn name. Can you?" 

"No," Mabel said, "I can't. But I remember the act was 
presented by Karno's Pantomime Company." 

Mack was excited. "That's it. And it all comes back to me 
now. The manager was Alf Reeves. And the little comedian's 

FE. Fl, FO, FUM! 229 

name was . . . damn it ! I had it on the tip of my tongue. 
Damn it ! It's gone. Was it Cameron ? . . . Chadwick ? . . . 
Something like Clifton? Well, I'll wire Kessel and have 
him get in touch with Reeves." 

"You mean you're going to hire the little fellow whose 
name you remember so perfectly?" 

"Mabel, if there's one thing I can do, it's to spot talent. 
Why I didn't think of this fellow before is beyond me. 
Maybe because Sterling, Arbuckle and the rest have gone 
ahead so fast. But this chap, what's-his-name, Carlson or 
Kincaid, has got something." 

"He was funny," said Mabel. "There was something kind 
of sad about him. That's what I remember most. He was 
sad ; he made your heart ache, but he was funny. Don't you 
remember I said: 'That guy was born with two strikes on 
him'? What was his name, anyway?" 

Sennett telegraphed Kessel concerning the Karno act. He 
described in detail the man he wanted to hire. There was a 
delay, explained subsequently by the fact that the comedian 
Sennett had in mind had not been with the first company, 
which had played Hammerstein's, but with the second com- 
pany which had played the American Theater. Kessel wired 
Sennett : 



Sennett urged Kessel to ascertain what Chaplin was earn- 
ing on the stage, and to offer him three times his salary. 
Chaplin was being paid $40 a week. Kessel promised him 
$125 a week to sign with Keystone. 

Chaplin consulted his company manager, Alf Reeves. The 
latter advised him to accept the terms of the Keystone con- 
tract. "It isn't likely you'd ever get that much on the stage," 
Reeves said. 

Chaplin capitulated to the blandishments of Kessel. The 
pantomime troupe was playing Oil City, Pennsylvania. There 
Chaplin signed a contract in the late summer of 191 3. He 
stipulated that he would join Keystone after his act had 
appeared at the Empress Theater, Los Angeles, the follow- 
ing November. He was none too sanguine about what the 
future held for him and none too confident of the survival 
chances of an adolescent industry. 

Mack Sennett had serious misgivings when he called back- 
stage at the Empress Theater that autumn. What was his 
new employe like? He had never seen him off-stage. It 
would be a calamity if he turned out to be past middle age. 
And what — My God — if he failed to photograph? 

He was relieved to find Charlie Chaplin a young man in 
adequate health. The little comedian was then twenty- four 
years old. On the stage, with a desperate Desmond make- 
up, long drooping mustachios, a frock coat, checked vest and 
spats, Chaplin had seemed to be in the dissolute fifties, af- 

FE, Fl, FO, FUM! 231 

flicted with drunkard's torpor and the genuine stigmata of 
St. Vitus's dance. 

A heavy silence hung over the first meeting between the 
ci-devant boiler maker and the reticent music-hall alumnus. 
Sennett could not penetrate the diffidence of his recruit. Nor 
could Chaplin comprehend why the robust King of Comedy 
should be so inarticulate. They met in California, which 
automatically excluded the weather as a topic for conversa- 
tional sanctuary. They appraised each other in silence. There 
was no spontaneous intimacy, no sudden and demonstrative 
affection between them. Afterwards, as then, Mack was 
"Mr. Sennett" to Charlie Chaplin. 

When Chaplin did speak, his voice was soft and his accent 
revealed his British origin. Sennett learned something of his 
new employe's background. He was the son of a widowed 
mother and had spent a portion of his youth in the orphanage 
at Hanwell, North London. 

What Sennett noticed particularly was the look of passive 
melancholia in Chaplin's eyes. The tragic mask was momen- 
tarily lifted by a most disarming smile. Sennett went away 
impressed by a man who must have known, despite his years, 
poverty, brutality and defeat. The King of Comedy did not 
verbalize this impression. What he actually said to himself 
was : "I hope we're not stuck with the little Limey." 

Karno's vaudeville troupe moved on. Chaplin was left to 
sink or swim in strange and muddy waters. For a long time 


an overwhelming timidity held him almost a prisoner in his 
hotel room. He knew that his contract with Sennett was 
iron-clad. Yet a gnawing uncertainty made him feel an 
alien among aliens. Each morning he would ride on the 
Edendale street car to the gates of the studio. He sum- 
moned the courage to get off the car. One look at the flam- 
boyant sign over the main entrance was enough to make 
Chaplin turn back in panic. The sprawling plant, the noises 
that came from the stages, the clamor of the comedians — 
all these bewildered the little Englishman. Chaplin could not 
face such music! He shrank from the scene like the oft- 
rebuffed supernumerary, kicked and cuffed by arrogant mat- 
inee idols, snubbed even by casually employed extras, and, 
driven back to a threadbare room, Chaplin sat until dark- 
ness hid him. 

One morning he marshaled all his courage and reported. 
He was assigned a dressing room occupied by Mack Swain, 
Fatty Arbuckle and one or two others. Chaplin could not 
indulge his desire for privacy. Perhaps, some day, he might 
have a dressing room of his own, such as Ford Sterling had. 

Most of the Keystone comedians ignored Chaplin com- 
pletely. One or two conceded that he had talent, but wouldn't 
go very far. He was so shy that the Keystone clowns did not 
seek his company. Nor did he seek theirs. 

Pathe Lehrman paid some attention to Chaplin, and in 
the beginning had a little influence with the stranger. Sennett 
assigned Lehrman to direct Chaplin's initial picture, an opus 

FE, Fl, FO, FUM! 233 

yclept Making a Living. Chaplin played a character part. 
Lehrman and Sennett played bits, the better to observe the 
new comedian. 

Lehrman had a hard time persuading Chaplin to face the 
camera. This Cyclops spares no one, and that actor who 
learns to ignore the monster may find favor in his relentless 
eye. Mabel Normand was to have played the lead in this 
picture. It did not help matters when she sought to overcome 
Chaplin's timidity by taunts which only lashed his fears. 
The consequence was that he refused flatly to appear before 
the camera with her. Minta Durfee was substituted for 

Work begun, Chaplin miraculously shed his phobia. He 
began to ask pertinent questions. Nothing escaped him. His 
years of experience in the ancient art of pantomime gave 
him immense advantages in the field of pictorial expression. 
And now, while the picture was being taken, he startled 
everyone who had thought him so terribly backward and al- 
most neurotically diffident. His comments had authority and 
vitality. He had ideas. 

Lehrman had taken a scene at a street intersection. Then 
after an interval, he moved his camera two blocks away and 
around the corner. Chaplin refused point-blank to continue 
the action. 

"We just made a scene two blocks away. Now you ask 
me to begin again here, and I am supposed to see a girl who 


is two blocks away and around a corner. I couldn't possibly 
see her from here." 

Lehrman explained that motion-picture sequences differed 
from stage continuity; that after the picture was cut and 
pieced together nobody would know, from a strict geographi- 
cal standpoint, where or how the scene was taken. 

Chaplin finally said he would let the picture progress, but 
muttered : "These men are fools." 

When Sennett sat in his rocking-chair to see the first 
Chaplin picture, he was worried : "I'm absolutely sure we've 
got a find in the Englishman," he told Mabel, "but I feel in 
my bones that his first picture will be a flop." 

"Maybe you'll be agreeably surprised," said Mabel. "This 
man has something — something you can't put your finger 

"It's a talent," Sennett replied didactically. Then growing 
prophetic, he added : "But I see a flop in this picture." 

Sennett sat in the gloom, his crownless Panama hat aslant 
on his brow and a solacing quid in his cheek. After the first 
fifty feet had been shown, his chair began to creak violently. 
His subordinates were not alarmed this time, for it was Sen- 
nett's mistake, not theirs, in hiring Chaplin. They felt safe — 
now that the rocking-chair had creaked its sinister message — 
in commenting freely upon the new comedian — if, indeed, he 
could be considered a comedian. Almost unanimously the 
projection- room oracles pronounced Chaplin a dismal lia- 

FE, Fl, FO, FUM! 235 

"Just a minute/' said Sennett. "He's a flop, eh? All right. 
Does anyone know why?" 

Some bold lieutenant spoke. "Because he's no good." 

Sennett arose for the defense. "No. It's his make-up. 
Those villain's mustaches and formal clothes ! We'll change 
his make-up and see something." 

When Sennett's backers, Kessel and Bauman, pre-viewed 
this first Chaplin picture, they groaned. Bauman came to Cal- 
ifornia with no good tidings for Sennett's new protege. Ster- 
ling's threatened resignation and Chaplin's first picture were 
twin anxieties for the Keystone executives. 

"Mack," Bauman said, "you've made a great record, but 
this is one time you've gone crazy. The fellow, what's-his- 
name, is a complete bust. He isn't funny. And his contract 
with us isn't funny either. We're hooked for a year at $125 
a week. We can't stand many mistakes like that." 

"Well, now, Bauman," said Mack, "the boy's all right. 
I tell you he's a good comedian. We just haven't found his 
pattern yet." 

"You'll find it in a cheese factory," said Bauman. 

"Bauman," Mack said, "we had a bad story; he wasn't 
made up like a comedian ; and he's had no real attention. It's 
just a tough break for everybody, but I'm confident he'll be 
a good comedian someday, maybe a great one." 

"You're very optimistic. I'm not. But you're running the 
studio. So go ahead." 


There was some bad weather. The skies were overcast. 
Sennett was restless — three days had passed and all his com- 
panies were idle. What could he do? He suggested that his 
aides call the newspapers to find out if anything was going 
on that might be used as a background. The city editor of the 
Times reported that there was to be a children's bicycle race 
at Santa Monica. It was to be a five-mile contest. 

"Lehrman," said Sennett, "take that young Englishman 
and whoever else you want out to Santa Monica." 

On the morning of the juvenile race, Lehrman wandered 
into Charlie's dressing room. Unaware that he was being 
observed, Chaplin was doing an amazingly grotesque walk. 
To Lehrman it seemed as if he were watching a paretic prize- 
fighter jigging on his heels, skidding, making abrupt and 
careening pirouettes, while his face became as forlorn and 
solemn as a Druid's. Lehrman was torn between laughter and 
awe at this tragi-comic rite. Fascinated, Pathe could only 
articulate : 

"What the hell is that?" 

Chaplin, abashed by having been caught in his grotes- 
querie, explained : "The man from whom I learned that walk 
seemed to have something wrong with his feet. And do you 
know? He was instructor in a school for crippled children. 
He could barely walk himself, yet he had been chosen to 
teach those unfortunate children how to run! Ironical, isn't 
it? You must have observed the same sort of thing in this 
business, too." 

FE, Fl, FO, FUM! 237 

Lehrman pondered on this and replied irrelevantly : "Come 
on. We'll try that walk when we shoot the kids' bicycle race." 

"Do you mind telling me the story of this picture?" Chap- 
lin asked. 

Lehrman guffawed. "We haven't got one — as usual. But 
don't let that worry you. We'll think one up when we get 

"What a droll and resourceful profession!" said Chaplin. 

"Get a make-up and come on," commanded Pathe. "We'll 
take a couple of Keystone Cops with us." 

Chaplin's first make-up is the theme of several legends. No 
one has analyzed its symbolic significance in more minute de- 
tail than the erudite Rob Wagner, Hollywood's encyclope- 
dist and epistemologist. 

Lest anyone dispute Professor Wagner's qualifications to 
deliver obiter dicta, let it be known that he acquired his 
academic background as a teacher of Art, Greek and Wres- 
tling at the Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles. 
Among the luminaries who came under the influence of the 
sun-kist Aristotle were Frank Capra, Lawrence Tibbett, 
Marion Morgan and eight of her dancers, Jose Rodriguez, 
Phyllis Haver and District Attorney Buron Fitts. Wagner 
earned a reputation as a producer of scholastic theatricals. 
The boiler room in the basement of his school was the scene 
of his greatest exploits. The press made such a to-do over 
his productions that Wagner almost believed he was a born 
master of stagecraft. After seventeen of his students became 


internationally famous, Professor Wagner reached the philo- 
sophical conclusion that all the tributes belonged rightfully 
to the plethora of talent in his class rooms. Like other 
prophets, Wagner incurred the ire of his pedagogical su- 
periors because he kept no attendance rolls and permitted his 
charges to call him "Uncle Rob." 

Over his kraut diet, at the Beverly Hills Brown Derby, the 
former Professor of Wrestling, and now the close friend 
and confidant of Charlie Chaplin, expounded to me the 
deep and premeditated symbolism of his idol's make-up : 

"When Charlie came out to the studio for the first time, 
he was frightened by the fantastic dress of the extras stand- 
ing around. Chaplin believed that pantomime is a distinct and 
different art. People in England found it acceptable and 
good art. When Chaplin saw the extras, he felt he couldn't 
go through with it and was discouraged. It was only after 
drinking a lot of coffee that he put himself in the frame of 
mind to go into the studio. And, once in, he found the pace 
violent and the costumes grotesque. 

"After he had been razzed by almost everybody, Chaplin 
was asked to change hurriedly. He quickly devised for the 
first time the make-up that was to become a classic. He said 
to himself : 'Big hands aren't funny, but big feet are.' So he 
put on big shoes, the right one on the left foot and the left 
one on the right foot. He didn't think that coats are funny, 
but knew that pants are, so he put on baggy pants. Instead 
of making the hat big, he made it small. Each part of his 

FE, Fl, FO, FUM! 239 

ensemble was a symbol, and if you misplace symbols, they 
then become ridiculous. All his stuff had to be shabby. He 
personified shabby gentility. And to top it off, he used a 
walking stick, because it was the final symbol of gentility. 
Shabby gentility is the keynote of much of Dickens's work." 

As Minta Durfee remembers it, however, Chaplin bor- 
rowed his outfit at random from various persons. She says 
that his derby hat originally belonged to Minta's father, and, 
in turn, was worn by Fatty Arbuckle. The shoes were the 
property of the man whom he was destined to supplant on 
the throne of comedy — Ford Sterling. Only in this instance 
does the fact bear out Professor Wagner's contention of a 
highly symbolic choice. Charlie, who has small feet, put the 
shoes on in reverse order, merely because that was the surest 
way to keep them there. 

Mack Swain had a large assortment of mustaches. 
Charlie tried one on, but it didn't satisfy him. It was too 
large. He began to clip it. By the time he had the right side 
balanced against the left, it was a very small appendage. 

Whatever the source of Charlie's make-up, he went to 
Santa Monica with Lehrman. Pathe said: "Now you walk 
up and down in the foreground during the bike race. See 
the camera over there ? It's a dummy. I will work the dummy 
camera, as though taking pictures. The real camera will pho- 
tograph us. You get in my way all the time." 

That was the "story." The rest was extemporaneous ac- 
tion. There were fights, shoves and melees — and the pe- 


culiar hobble, with Chaplin balancing on one leg as he turned 
sharp corners and jigged along. The entire picture was made 
in forty-five minutes. It was called The Children's Auto- 
mobile Race. 

Kessel and Bauman did not sneer this time. They knew 
that Keystone had "discovered" a new star. Letters came 
in by the thousands, asking : "Who is the funny little fellow 
with the little mustache and the funny walk?" 

That funny little walk revolutionized screen comedy. Prior 
to the first moment when Chaplin sauntered before the cam- 
era, comedians labored under the compulsion to be violent 
and over-emphatic. Muscularity was an indispensable in the 
equipment of the comic. He had to be an explosive charge, 
detonating without surcease. Action was never allowed to 
lapse, and gag had to follow upon gag without an interval 
for breath. Chaplin reversed the whole process. His comedy 
was slow, deliberate and always understated. Instead of the 
bulging muscle, the frail frame. Instead of the staccato of 
guffaws, and heavy-handed caricatures, the catharsis of true 
laughter over the little man's plight in an antagonistic world. 
The poignant smile on Charlie's face and the grave move- 
ments of his body brought the tragic and comic spirits into 
perfect juxtaposition. 

The old school, dimly aware of an impending calamity, 
prepared to defend itself. Ford Sterling derided Chaplin's 
method as being too slow and too obscure to survive. He felt 
that he could speak with authority, for he had made his own 

FE, Fl, FO, FUM! 241 

ventures in slow-motion to the obbligato of ''Hearts and 
Flowers." If he, the nonpareil, had failed in his pioneer ex- 
periment, what chance had a shuffling tyro like Chaplin? 

Sennett, even with the will to believe box-office figures, 
suffered recurrent qualms. The slow tempo of the Chaplin 
technique was as subversive as a nihilistic doctrine in the 
vestry. Hitherto, Mack had stipulated that every gag must 
be begun, pointed and consummated within twenty feet of 
film. Chaplin barely got started in a hundred feet. Perplexed 
as he undoubtedly was by the implications of a new art form, 
Mack found ample solace in the public response. The dis- 
senting comedians, their backs to the wall, would not capitu- 
late without a fight. They felt that a duel to the artistic 
death between their champion, Sterling, and the puny chal- 
lenger would settle the issue with finality. That duel came 
with Chaplin's third picture. It was directed by Pathe Lehr- 
man, a comedy called Between Showers. 

It had been raining. The skies made the Calif ornians wince 
as they apologized for the deluge to tourists. Lehrman 
wanted to get away from the studio — the world's most de- 
pressing place on a wet day. He took Sterling, Chaplin, a 
girl and a policeman, put them in a car and started down 
Main street. When Lehrman saw a wide puddle, he stopped 
and began the picture. 

The background consisted of citizens hopping across the 
street and wading through the puddle. 

Lehrman called: "Places." He gave final instructions to 


the principals and the action began. Charlie Chaplin was 
never more deliberate. Sterling plunged into the routine. The 
two styles clashed violently. Sterling's over-emphasis, all the 
muscular resources of his repertoire were called upon to en- 
gulf Chaplin. Goliath made his first rushing bid for victory. 
David, calm, detached and a little sad, stood his ground. 
A twirl of the cane, a lift of an eyebrow, a mournful wiggle 
of his mustache, a chivalrous raising of his derby and a 
tentative little kick against his own posterior — these deadly 
pellets brought the giant to earth. 

Although defeated in this engagement, Sterling still would 
not acknowledge that the war was over. Chaplin's coup de 
grace was only delayed until another day. 

Mabel Normand was making a picture called Mabel's 
Predicament. The gags were not measuring up to standard, 
and Sennett thought the picture "draggy." He demanded 
new gags, new consultants, new actors to salvage the comedy. 

"Where's the Englishman?" 

The King of Comedy usually had called for the mighty 
Sterling whenever a picture threatened to die in the birth. 
The sudden call for Chaplin came as a complete surprise to 
the cast. Charlie put on his make-up, and walked on the set. 
The actors were gathered in what purported to be the lobby 
of a hotel. 

Chaplin sauntered into the lobby, doing his funny walk, 
and nonchalantly started to use the phone. Then he discov- 
ered that it cost five cents. He had no nickel. Mabel came 

FE, Fl, FO, FUM! 243 

in with a dog, and Charlie was egregiously polite to her. 
He got mixed up with the dog, tripped over a leash, fell, his 
hand submerged in a cuspidor, all the time acting with a 
betrayed dignity while the hotel clerk looked on with a 
menacing eye. This scene ran for an unprecedented one hun- 
dred and thirty-six feet. At its close, the actors — at last com- 
pelled to concede Chaplin's supremacy — began to roar with 
laughter and applaud. 

Sterling was sitting in his dressing room when he heard 
the roar of the crowd. Alarmed, he ran to the door and 
looked out. He saw the little Englishman walk tragically to 
his own quarters, as oblivious to the applause of his col- 
leagues as he had been to their derision. 

Sterling knew that a great star had risen. It was a calamity 
to him, but he took it with the courage of a champion. 

Sterling was now fully aware that he had to quit Key- 
stone. He wanted to do his own pictures under his own 
name. Lehrman now had split with Sennett. Together with 
Fred Balshofer, pioneer picture executive, the two Sennett 
stalwarts formed a company. This was in the summer of 
1 9 14, and the World War had begun. Sterling wanted to 
call the concern "The Sterling Motion Picture Company." 

"We can't do that," Lehrman said, "because you're a 
German. And if we put your name up too prominently, it 
may offend anti-German customers. And another thing, 
Ford, you've got to stop playing German roles." 


Sterling bridled. "For two years I've worked all the time 
to establish myself. I became the greatest Dutch comedian 
in the world, and I'll not give up the character.'' 

"You'd better be just a plain American comedian," said 
Lehrman. "We can't take chances." 

"I refuse to do that," said Sterling. "I'll play the Dutch- 
man or nothing. And we'll name it the Sterling Company." 

Lehrman was making a picture called Hearts and Swords, 
to be released through Universal. He was faced by financial 
hazards. If the picture required an extra day in the shoot- 
ing, the profit would be jeopardized. Lehrman decided upon 
a seven o'clock call, so that a good start could be made. 
Sterling didn't show up until after noon, and he seemed 

Lehrman was furious. "If I'm able to get up at seven, so 
are you. I'm quitting." 

Balshofer and Sterling got together and decided they 
could manage very well without him. 

Lehrman then formed the L-K-O Company (Lehrman 
Knock-Out). He asked Mabel Normand to join his new out- 
fit. He told her he could not afford to give her more than 
$250 a week. He suggested that she go to Sennett and see if 
he would raise her from the $100 which she now was get- 
ting. She did so, and Mack met the offer with $250. Then 
Lehrman increased his offer to $400. Sennett met that prop- 
osition also, and hated Lehrman all the more cordially. 

FE, Fl, FO, FUM! 245 

D. W. Griffith returned to Los Angeles in February of 
1914. He was big with The Birth of a Nation. The accouche- 
ment was being arranged with more mystery than the 
mumbo- jumbos that were going on that year in the chan- 
celleries of Europe. When Sennet t saw the smoke coming 
from the wigwam of Medicine-Man Griffith, he was stirred 
to ambitious projects. If The Birth of a Nation was to be a 
multiple-reel spectacle, nobody would find him outdone. He 
cast about for a comedy and a star worthy of a mile of 
uproarious celluloid. 

He recalled the phenomenal stage success of Marie Dress- 
ier in Tittle's Nightmare. In fact, one of his favorite songs 
stemmed from that opera — ' 'Heaven Will Protect the Work- 
ing Girl." He imported the popular comedienne from Broad- 
way and gave her Chaplin as a foil. In true Hollywood fash- 
ion, and with their left-handed sagacity, the title was 
amended to Tillies Punctured Romance. Ordinarily Sennett 
devoted from forty-five minutes to a week to the making of 
his comedies. The herculean industry of Griffith induced 
Mack to ignore the existence of time. Tillie's Punctured Ro- 
mance was to be Sennett's great extravagance, a lavish ex- 
penditure of time and money on six reels of comedy — the 
first six-reel comedy ever screened. 

The acknowledged stature of Marie Dressier as a come- 
dienne led Chaplin's detractors to predict that the little fel- 
low would be totally eclipsed by the radiance of authentic 
art. When the picture was shown, no one could dispute the 


gifts of Marie Dressier. But those who applied the term 
"genius" to Charlie Chaplin were vindicated in their judg- 

Since then the rank of genius has been accorded the little 
tragi-comedian in every civilized land of the world. 

Chapter 18 


THE rest of the world may have discerned elements of 
genius in a few of the actors now making strange antics 
before the three-legged Cyclops, yet the citizenry of Holly- 
wood looked upon the motion-picture mummers as practi- 
tioners of the black arts. Eventually, Southern California's 
boards of trade were willing to reap the commercial advan- 
tages of a new industry. 

When the remarkable discovery was made that actors are 
sometimes people, who bled when pricked, who could be 
taxed and fined, the aloof natives went so far as to acknowl- 
edge, albeit grudgingly, a place to them in the California 
sun. The more daring liberals actually went so far as to say 
that they knew some actors who were really nice people. 



It must be remembered that in Los Angeles, as elsewhere 
in prosperous America, the average amusement seeker 
reached the zenith of revelry while listening to phonographs 
that played cylindrical records beneath goose-necked horns. 
It was a time when only the most depraved female would 
paint her face, march in suffrage parades, or forego the tra- 
ditional coy hints while knitting certain small garments and 
say candidly and to the point : "I am pregnant." 

The motion-picture studios were responsible for a land 
boom. This attracted settlers. Payrolls multiplied week by 
week. As ever, economic factors were potent enough to con- 
vert outspoken scorn into pained resignation. The local ben- 
eficiaries did not throw bricks at the actors, but they re- 
served the right to consider them as impious freaks, to be 
shunned as much as business expediency would warrant. 

Whenever Selig's noisy cowboys or Ince's intoxicated cav- 
alry came riding down the pike, mothers drove their inquisi- 
tive children indoors until these plagues would pass by. 
When Sennett's epileptic merry-andrews appeared, leaping 
and chastising one another with two-by-fours, the martyred 
burghers barricaded their doors against these Pied Pipers. 

The social outcasts of the movie colony were thrown upon 
their own devices as they searched for extra-mural activi- 
ties. Even the pariah longs to eat, drink and be merry. The 
picture folk, in their quest for food, found cafes to their 
taste. To quench their thirst, they found sanctuary in saloons. 
After a day of sadistic slap-stick, nothing made them mer- 


rier than to sit safely among the audience and observe two 
prize fighters maiming each other, thus satisfying the imme- 
morial human need that has impelled busmen to go riding on 
their holidays. 

One of the earliest popular resorts was Nat Goodwin's 
cafe. The former Broadway comedian had his establishment 
on the ocean front at Santa Monica. The Ship Cafe was 
opened shortly afterward and at once became popular. Abe 
Lyman, the animated musician, worked at the Ship Cafe and 
then moved on to the Sunset Inn. 

There was a small, eight-stool lunch-cubby called John's, 
which was popular for late-hour groups. Eddie Brandstatter 
opened the elaborate Montmartre and it became a rendezvous 
for the film folk. Al Levy, the ageless god of the plank 
steak, had a restaurant in Spring street where the pioneers 
frequently dined. 

The roly-poly Baron Long, now the lessee of the Los 
Angeles Biltmore and one of the founders of the Agua 
Caliente race track, had a cafe at Vernon, a Los Angeles 
suburb. Harry Richman played a small piano and the guests 
threw coins at him. Buddy de Silva, the song writer, was 
one of the Baron's entertainers. He strummed the ukulele 
and posed as a Hawaiian. 

Baron Long's Vernon Country Club was regarded as the 
greatest cabaret in the world. Here, among their own peo- 
ple, the players could forget the restraints imposed on them 
by their estimable neighbors and detractors. If anyone 


stepped out of line, got drunk or caused trouble, the offender 
was disciplined. The penalty for a grievous moral lapse was 
a suspension of two weeks. 

Charlie Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle and other Sennett lumi- 
naries preferred the atmosphere of fight clubs to that of 
genteel drawing rooms. They had a fling at the management 
of bruisers. Sometimes they even climbed into the ring, 
buckets in hands and towels about necks, to second their 
fistic idols. 

One of the foremost fight clubs was operated by Jack 
Doyle. Until the year 1909, Doyle presided at the throttle 
of a Southern Pacific railroad locomotive on the run between 
Los Angeles and Yuma. Doyle left the rails and opened a 
saloon in Arcadia, a suburb of Los Angeles. The next year 
he promoted himself to the ownership of a saloon and train- 
ing quarters for prize fighters at Thirty-eighth street and 
Santa Fe avenue in Vernon. The Doyle camp was nearly a 
mile below Uncle Tom McCarey's famous fight arena. 

Vernon was an incorporated village. Mr. Doyle was its 
boss. He appointed the police and bought their uniforms and 
other equipment. He also built a church for his town. Across 
the street from his camp was a restaurant — which he also 
owned. His fighters ate there. The more fortunate ones slept 
in bungalows built on his estate. The others slept wherever 
they might. 

The rosy-cheeked Mr. Doyle's saloon occupied a strategic 
point in his amusement center. A patron entered at the cor- 


ner of Thirty-eighth and Santa Fe. He immediately saw a 
hall of mirrors and one of the longest bars in the world. 
That shelf could support at least four hundred pairs of el- 
bows. From forty to fifty bartenders stood like soldiers in a 
trench awaiting an attack. By the time a man had had a 
drink near the door and started toward the training quarters 
at the rear of the big building, he was thirsty again. There 
was a large admonitory sign on the wall addressed to those 
patrons who might otherwise have suffered a lapse of mem- 
ory concerning their dear ones. It was the lyrical creation of 
Mr. Doyle himself and read : 

"If your children need shoes, 
Don't buy booze." 

The attenuated bar, with its array of glimmering tumblers, 
decanters, pyramided wine and whiskey glasses, ran the 
length of the great refreshment chamber, turned a corner and 
debouched on a card room. That room sometimes served as a 
conference hall for political caucuses and often witnessed the 
signing of articles between eminent pugilists. The free-lunch 
counter was in the card room. Its bosom swelled with all 
manner of salt dishes, which renewed the thirst of those 
who had managed to come by forced marches through the 
bar-room. The temptation to return to the elongated bar vir- 
tually became a necessity. Nobody ever died of thirst at 

In the card room, as in the bar, there were pictures of 


famous prize fighters. A portrait of John L. Sullivan hung 
above the free lunch. The former king of the heavyweights 
wore a scowl and stared down as though to warn gourmands 
not to take unsportsmanlike advantage of Mr. Doyle's hos- 

The training camp, at the rear of the card room, was 
reached through a narrow hallway. The gentlemen's wash- 
room flanked this passageway. A man was strong-willed in- 
deed who could go through the Doyle labyrinth and come 
upon the training-yard without having assuaged his thirst. 

All the big fighters of the day, as well as preliminary boys, 
has-beens and hope-to-bes, trained at Jack Doyle's camp. 
The crowds that gathered to watch were drawn from what 
reporters are wont to call "all walks of life." There were 
pickpockets, fences, promoters and we-boys. Also there were 
such celebrities as Earl Rogers, famed criminal attorney and 
father of Adela Rogers St. John, Mr. and Mrs. Jack Cud- 
ahy, Anita Baldwin and the entire movie crowd. Ladies did 
not enter saloons in those days. Men had a modicum of 
privacy. Doyle cut a door in the fence which surrounded the 
training-yard, and a sentinel bowed damsels and matrons in 
at this gate. 

A patron entered the enclosure to find a boxing-ring, over 
which a roof had been built to shield the gladiators from the 
enervating sun. The audience, however, sat in the open. 
There were two sections for the spectators. One was an ar- 
ray of reserved boxes, from which the ladies and their es- 


corts could order beer and watch the proceedings with mel- 
low gentility. The roughnecks occupied the bleachers. 

To the right of the arena, and looking from the card-room 
door, was a sort of stockade which surrounded the dressing 
quarters of the plug uglies. Taking a leaf from Mack Sen- 
nett's book, Doyle had installed a swimming tank inside this 
rectangle. A very dilapidated and unused tennis court had 
found its way, presumably by mistake, into the architect's 
plans. It is hardly likely that there was a man within five 
miles of Vernon who knew the difference between a tennis 
racket and a crab-net. 

Of a Sunday morning, and just when the day's business 
began to boom and the Saturday night hang-overs were about 
to be subdued, a sacred procession passed the Doyle doors. 
Two nuns led this throng of youngsters. The boys were 
dressed in their Sunday finest and often the little girls wore 
flowers in their hair. They always marched down Thirty- 
eighth street and past Doyle's, there to turn the corner and 
proceed to church. Doyle stationed a huge Irish cop in front 
of the swinging doors of his emporium to prevent any 
drunkard from wandering out while the nuns and their 
charges were passing. 

Doyle's Arena was the scene of many titular fights. In one 
of them, a lightweight champion of the world was called 
upon to meet an exceptionally tough and hot-headed chal- 
lenger. The champion was an arrant playboy and had 
neglected to train properly. 


After an eleventh-hour consideration of his lack of con- 
dition, the champion evolved a strategic plan which com- 
bined business with pleasure. He made advances to the hot- 
tempered challenger's comely wife and was accepted as her 
clandestine sweetheart. The night before the fight, the cham- 
pion called on the challenger's missus. Her husband — as lov- 
ers always believe — was safe in bed elsewhere. Nobody 
knew better than the champion that the challenger's place 
of rest on the night before a fight was in his training camp. 
Toward midnight the couple were disturbed. The champion 
leaped out of bed before a light was struck and escaped 
through an open window. The infuriated challenger, un- 
aware who had been in his nest, wasted some of his best 
blows on his spouse. 

When the fighters were called to the center of the ring 
the next afternoon, the experts remarked that the champion 
seemed in bad form, that he faced defeat and the loss of 
his title. After the referee had instructed the men as to their 
conduct during the twenty-round engagement, the champion 
said to the challenger : 

"Well, last night I put your wife to sleep. Tonight I'm 
going to do the same thing for you. I was the guy that 
dived through the window." 

The challenger had a brain-storm. It took all the seconds 
and four policemen to hold him in check until the opening 
bell. When the gong rang he had lost his head completely. He 
swung and lunged and wore himself threadbare, while the 


champion danced in a relaxed manner, merely avoiding the 
blows. By the tenth round the challenger was exhausted. 
The champion now set to work and cut him to ribbons. 

At the close of the contest, the challenger was barely 
able to say to his antagonist: "I'm going to kill you when 
I get dressed." 

'That's all right with me," said the champion. "You'll 
find me at your wife's home." 

A great favorite with the movie colony was the famous 
lightweight, Rudolph ("Boer") Unholtz. He fought the 
masterful Negro, Joe Gans, at the Vernon Club. The fight 
was stopped during the twelfth round. In his dressing room, 
Unholtz said : "The only time I touched Joe was when we 
shook hands." 

Charlie Eyton, afterward a motion-picture magnate, ref- 
ereed a fight between Unholtz and George Memsic at the 
Vernon Arena. In the very first round Memsic landed on 
Unholtz's chin with his justly renowned right fist and 
knocked the Boer into the second row of spectators. From 
his squatting position on a patron's lap, Unholtz yelled: 

"Don't count, Charlie. This crooked gambler is holding 
my tights." 

When Battling Nelson was lightweight champion, Unholtz 
met him in the ring, and, when he saw Nelson coming in, 
wide open, let go with a hitherto-devastating left hook. It 
caught Nelson flush on the chin, but the durable champion 
never batted an eye. Unholtz backed away, raised his hand, 


commanding a halt, and said: "Just a minute. I want to 
see what's holding this guy up I" 

Unholtz had lost most of his voice in a peculiar ring acci- 
dent in Colorado. He was fighting Stanley Soakum Yoakum 
and fell half-way through the ropes. As he tried to get back, 
the top rope was under his chin and across his Adam's 
apple. Yoakum hit the rope, which in turn bruised the Boer's 
larnyx. This injury resulted in a tuberculous infection, from 
which the Boer died in a shanty across the street from Sen- 
nett's Edendale studio. Harry Gribbon and two other Sennett 
comedians were with the Boer as he died. He kept trying 
to rise from his cot, calling in a wheezy voice: "By God! 
They'll never count me out!" 

Another favorite of the comedians was Kid Blue, the 
Negro fighter. He worked for Sennett whenever there were 
pictures calling for a lion tamer. One night the Kid was 
fighting very poorly. He missed his opponent with almost 
every blow. His second, Fatty Arbuckle, called out : 

"Hey! Hit him where he is — not where he was!" 

On another occasion the Kid sustained a cut inside his 
lip. He resigned under fire. His manager almost sobbed: 
"You're not going to quit fighting on us !" 

"Oh, no," said the Kid. "I'm going to fight some more — 
but not tonight." 

Mack Sennett was an ardent fight fan. The comic spirit 
that had made millions of people laugh needed occasional 



Classmates at Custard College enjoy a banquet not far from the 
campus. Back row, from right to left: Mrs. Mack Swain, Mrs. Chester 
Conklin {deceased) , Lottie Pickford, Dorothy Davenport, Minta 
Durfce {Mrs. Arbuckle) , Mack Swain, Irene Wallace, Ford Sterling, 
Charlie Murray. Seated at table, back: Chester Conklin, Teddy Samp- 
son {Mrs. Sterling), Fatty Arhuckle, Mabel Normand, Mack Sennett, 
an unrcmembered exhibitor. Front row: Another host, Milla Daven- 
port, Phyllis Allen, Harry McCoy, Mrs. Syd Chaplin and Syd Chaplin. 


replenishment. Nowhere else could Sennett find more whole- 
some amusement than was displayed in the ring of Doyle's 
Arena. The shenanigans of the tin-eared gentry were often 
hilarious. But Sennett was always on the lookout for a little 
more than hilarity. He fished for talent in unexpected waters, 
and usually made a surprising catch. 

It was among the fighters of Doyle's Arena that the King 
of Comedy found one of his most helpful aides — Al McNeil. 
Lest Mr. McNeil be mistaken for an actor, let it be under- 
stood clearly that he never assumed the exhibitionist's mot- 
ley. On the contrary, McNeil remained always in the back- 
ground, in fact, literally in the dark. He became Sennett's 
film-cutter (or editor), a post of the greatest responsibility 
and requiring the most expert skill. Sennett himself insists 
that McNeil was incomparably his best cutter. As an illustra- 
tion of his resourcefulness, McNeil once gathered the dis- 
carded fragments of twenty Keystone comedies, patched 
them together and created a highly successful picture for his 
employer. The story's incongruous leaps were reconciled 
when the comedy was presented as a man's "dream." 

The rise of McNeil as a boxer coincided with the repeal of 
the twenty-round fight game in California. The outlawing, in 
19 1 4, of the long-distance bouts did much to lessen the lure 
of Doyle's Arena. 

The promoters, however, were not to be entirely done in 
by the law. They began a scramble to promote amateur fights. 
These were legal affairs but were limited to four rounds. All 


professional fighters, with the exception of those who were 
nationally known, hastened to become "amateurs." 

Barney Oldfield, greatest of automobile racers, owned a 
saloon at Spring street, near Sixth. Upstairs there was a 
spacious loft, which became the Western Athletic Club. This 
establishment had been purchased by H. A. Wadhams from 
the actor, William S. Hart, who had been a boxer in his day. 
An entire floor was removed to give greater height to the 
auditorium. The seats were arranged in steep tiers. The ring 
was but twelve feet square. The smallest regulation ring is 
eighteen feet. The abbreviated battleground assured terrific 
fights, with a maximum of slugging and a minimum of danc- 
ing or pugilistic flirtation. A mere four rounds also encour- 
aged a furious pace, with twelve minutes of concentrated 
combat as against the twenty-round bouts with their hour of 
more leisurely struggle. 

The "amateurs" had to be satisfied with second-hand 
gloves, picked up at a bargain from other fight clubs. Most 
of these mittens bore the blood of old engagements, and in 
many cases were almost without padding. 

Among the fight addicts at the Western Athletic Club 
were Charlie Murray, Arbuckle, Chaplin, Kathleen Wil- 
liams, Ham and Budd (the Essanay comedy team), Mabel 
Normand, Mack Sennett, Slim Summerville, Lew Cody and 
Bobby Dunn. The tobacco smoke was so dense during the 
main event that the spectators could hardly see one another, 
not to mention the fighters. It was this foggy atmosphere 


that permitted Al McNeil to fight twice on the same night, 
once under the name of Jack Gordon and again as Kid 

McNeil was an indomitable fighter. When Sennett found 
out that he was smart enough to collect two purses in one 
evening, he said he wanted "that kind of brains at Key- 
stone." The comedians were especially fond of McNeil be- 
cause they were almost sure of an impromptu brawl when- 
ever they took him on parties. He was a very peaceable and 
almost frail-looking fellow when dressed for the street. He 
had a mild manner of speech. He was almost as shy as Chap- 
lin. This led bullies and fresh citizens to pick on him. He 
endured their insults and seemed about ready to cry. He 
weighed one hundred and fifteen pounds and it was a crime 
for a big fellow to hit him. The temptation was so great, 
however, that even the burliest instigator could not resist. 
Unfortunately for the provocateur, the shrinking violet be- 
came a copse of poison-oak. He was a buzz-saw, a hornet, a 
scourge and a pile-driver. Once a blow had been directed at 
him, he set to work with a will. 

When the "amateur" fight clubs got under way, the emolu- 
ment for a preliminary boy was $i per fight. The main- 
event pugilists received $3 to $7.50. McNeil was a $7.50 boy, 
and, by appearing twice on a program, collected $15. 

These athletes seldom performed on a winner-take-all 
basis, for the very good reason that a fighter might receive 
a surprise knockout from an obscure quarter. He might be 


hit by a bottle hurled by a spectator or he might not be 
liked by the referee. A biased arbiter might hold a pugilist's 
arm, thus leaving his opponent free to deal out a devastating 
blow during the breakaway. There were sinister hazards. 
The rubber hose that served as ropes was tied to the ring- 
posts in a manner that left the corner stanchions exposed. 
If a warrior were rushed hard, backed into a corner, got 
cracked by a fist, and at the same moment rammed by a 
post, he was not worth much as an entertainer for the rest 
of the evening. 

If a gladiator happened to be in his opponent's corner, his 
antagonist's seconds were apt to trip him. Another trick fa- 
vored by ringside consultants was to wait until the foe came 
their way. As soon as their victim got set to deliver a blow, 
a crafty mentor would reach through the ropes and grab his 
arm, thus leaving him open for a quick punch. These little 
irregularities, of course, caused terrific imbroglios between 
the seconds. 

The battlers chose hard-boiled bottle-and-sponge men for 
their handlers. McNeil's seconds usually were Rough House 
Burns, Jock Hennessey and Shovel Nose Murphy. 

McNeil persuaded Wadhams to raise the admission fee 
for his fight with the great flyweight, Frankie Dolan. Charlie 
Chaplin was to be Dolan's principal second, and Fatty Ar- 
buckle took Shovel Nose Murphy's place in McNeil's cor- 
ner. It was arranged between Dolan and McNeil that the for- 
mer should win the fight. It was in the bag. 


The house was crowded when Messrs. Chaplin and Ar- 
buckle came down the smoky aisles with their pugilists. The 
two comedians were utterly unaware of the business arrange- 
ment between their charges. Large wagers were laid on the 
outcome of this event. In the first round, Dolan almost sus- 
tained a knockout through carelessness as he bounced into 
McNeil's right hand. He sank to the resin. The promoters 
and McNeil almost had heart- failure. If Dolan lost, the en- 
tire purse would have been his under the terms of their 
highly ethical pact. He rose, however, at the urgent prod- 
dings of Mr. Chaplin and other supporters. Dolan salvaged 
the remaining three rounds and received the referee's de- 

To safeguard the fighters from the demoralizing taint of 
professionalism, the promoters gave medals. There were two 
sets of these tokens for each event, of which there usually 
were eight or ten. One medal was given to the winner of a 
contest, as a first prize. The other, as consolation, was 
awarded the loser. Later in the evening, or possibly next 
day, the medals were put back into currency by the fighters 
when they were given receipts for them, convertible at par. 
As the four-round game developed, the outstanding amateurs 
received as much as $2,000 when they cashed their medals. 

McNeil won the amateur bantam-weight championship of 
the Pacific Coast at the Los Angeles Athletic Club, where 
Sennett now resided. Later he turned professional and won 
the Pacific title in that class. Then he became an amateur 


again. His backers and seconds included at various times 
Jack Conway, now a director, Mack Sennett, Arbuckle and 
Mai St. Clair, then a newspaper cartoonist. 

McNeil may have been lethal with his opponents, but he 
was generous to the point of becoming compromised with 
his friends. The night he was scheduled to fight Champion 
Williams at Vernon, his deadliness and his kindness were 
put to a test. 

McNeil and St. Clair were outlining the plan of battle in a 
Los Angeles restaurant three hours before ring-time. In a 
few moments they would take a Vernon street car and arrive 
in ample time for McNeil to relax in slumber. Fighters 
usually sleep an hour or more before the main event, and 
sometimes, alas, for the last ten seconds of the bout. 

As McNeil and St. Clair were calling for their bill, Pro- 
moter Wadhams of the Western Athletic Club rushed in. 
He seemed hysterical. Gradually it came out that one of his 
pork-and-beans dependables had failed to appear for that 
night's smoker. The house was sold out and the customers 
were booing their impatience. Wadhams pleaded with Mc- 
Neil, tears in his voice, to take the place of the defaulting 

McNeil cited three incontrovertible objections: "Good 
God, Wadhams, I'd like to oblige you, but I've just put away 
a steak; I don't want to be late at Vernon; and, gee whiz, 
it's for the title." 

"I know all that," said the lachrymose Wadhams, "but my 


back's against the wall. You got to help me. This boy hasn't 
got a thing. You can belt him out and make Vernon in plenty 
of time. Come on, Al. I'll never forget it." 

The appeal was not lost on the ever-obliging McNeil. "I'll 
do it as a favor." 

When McNeil climbed into the Western Athletic Club 
ring, the booing subsided. He was introduced under his nom 
de guerre, Jack Gordon. The bell rang. The men advanced. 
While appraising his opponent's unorthodox stance, McNeil 
became acutely aware of the steak he had just eaten. He 
dropped his guard to pull up his tights. As he did so his un- 
gainly antagonist let go with a random right-hand swing that 
caught McNeil on the chin. Nobody was more amazed than 
the obscure preliminary boy when the referee counted out 

Under the mournfully tender ministrations of St. Clair, 
McNeil recovered consciousness on the Vernon street car. 

"What happened?" he asked. 

St. Clair could not deny the facts. He tried to tell him he 
had just had his nap, which, strictly speaking, was the truth. 

They arrived at Doyle's Arena a little late. The trolley 
ride had been a tonic. As McNeil entered the ring, St. Clair 
trembled in anticipation of catastrophe. During the fight, 
McNeil was not aware that the resounding cheers were for 
him. When the referee raised his hand as the new champion, 
McNeil became the hero of a fantastic legend of fistiana — the 


only boxer ever to sustain a knockout in one ring and on the 
same night win a championship in another. 

At length McNeil yielded to Sennett's persuasions and 
went to work at the Edendale studio. So eager was he to 
learn the business that he began as handy man, prop boy and 
assistant in the cutting department. At this time the cutting, 
or editing, of a picture was less complicated than it is today. 
There were few involved plots. The main elements of a pic- 
ture were action, thrill and tempo. 

After he had learned the rudiments of film-cutting, Mc- 
Neil was assigned to help the convivial Jim Davis, one of 
Sennett's favorite directors. They had been designated to 
make a scenario called Her Last Go. Sennett usually had 
frowned upon written stories for his films, but had yielded 
to the pressure of his artistic aides and said he would "try a 
few scripts, just to give them enough rope." 

On re-reading the scenario of Her Last Go, Sennett was 
disgusted and threw it into the waste basket. The subsequent 
fate of this manuscript was the foundation for an incredible 
scene in a Broadway play, but, none the less, here are the 
facts : 

After Sennett had discarded the script of Her Last Go, he 
called Davis in and gave him another story. 

Davis, unfortunately, had taken too many drinks that 
afternoon. He lost the new story. In a panic, he went back 
to Sennett's office. The King of Comedy was out. Davis 


rummaged through the waste basket and found what he be- 
lieved to be his story. In all innocence, he proceeded with 
the shooting of the junked opus. Half-way through the reel 
he was startled by the discovery that he was making Her 
Last Go. It was too late to stop. Davis sought solace in more 

Sennett was apoplectic when he saw the picture he had 
thrown into limbo. An added source of embarrassment was 
his promise of a Davis picture to Sid Grauman, who by now 
had a million-dollar theater in Los Angeles. 

Sennett fired Davis and McNeil. He telephoned Grauman 
to explain his predicament : 

"The picture I promised you has been made; but I'll be on 
the level with you, it didn't turn out as well as I thought." 

"Send it along anyway," Grauman said. "I'll take a 

With some misgivings, Mack delivered the film to Grau- 
man. The comedy made such a hit that Sid accorded it the 
distinction of spelling out its full title in electric lights on 
the marquee. 

Sennett re-hired McNeil forthwith and sent a posse to find 
Davis. The director was hauled out of a saloon and brought 
back to the lot. Sennett reinstated him with a salary increase. 
Davis swore off drinking, and critics aver that he never made 
another good picture. 

McNeil's greatest adventure with Sennett came on the oc- 
casion of the premiere of the Mabel Normand vehicle 


Molly-O. This was the most ambitious comedy ever under- 
taken by Sennett. In point of time, it followed the success 
Mickey, which is an episode that rightfully belongs in a sub- 
sequent chapter. 

Sennett and his lieutenants tried in every way to cut 
Molly-0 from ten reels to the stipulated six. By dint of great 
effort, they reduced its length to seven reels. On the after- 
noon of the premiere at Santa Barbara, some ninety miles 
away, Sennett gave up trying to pare his masterpiece. 

"The trouble is," he said, "I'm too close to it. I've given so 
much money, time and effort that I hate to cut it any more. 
We'll just have to show the seven reels and see how the audi- 
ence reacts. We'll cut the parts they like least. Take the seven 
cans to Santa Barbara, boys." 

That night McNeil was sitting in the cutting room at 
Edendale, wondering how the premiere of Molly-0 was far- 
ing. He was ready to go home when he saw a film-can which 
looked familiar. He examined it and learned, to his horror, 
that it contained all of Reel 5 of Molly-O. This was a major 

McNeil automatically realized that he would be fired. The 
head cutter had commissioned him explicitly to give the pre- 
cious seven cans to a special messenger. McNeil had neg- 
lected to send one of the reels ! He staggered out, the can un- 
der his arm. Torn between an instinct to act bravely by tak- 
ing the orphaned reel to Santa Barbara and the very human 
urge to get paralyzed drunk, he wondered why he had ever 


abandoned the safe and sane profession of pugilism. At this 
critical moment the property man was coming toward the 
gate on his motorcycle. 

"For the love of God," said the former bantam-weight 
champion, "ride me to Santa Barbara." 

"Can't do it," said the property man. "I got a date to play 
rummy with my girl's father." 

"Ride me to Santa Barbara," muttered McNeil, "or I'll 
knock you stiff !" 

They started out. The motorcycle balked along the way. 
They ran out of fuel. They had a flat tire. All the ailments 
known to vehicles depending upon internal combustion af- 
flicted the two-wheeled conveyance. They arrived at Santa 
Barbara just as the crowd emerged from the theater. McNeil 
was pale and sick at the stomach. He hunted for Sennett 
among the noisy throng. He found him in the foyer. A group 
surrounded the King of Comedy. For some reason, obscure 
to McNeil, everybody looked benign and in a congratulatory 

McNeil blinked when Sennett saw him. The King ad- 
vanced toward his trembling subject, clapped him on the 
shoulder and said : 

"It was a stroke of genius ! All of us tried for weeks to cut 
that picture, and, by God, you were the only one with guts 
enough and brains enough to see that we had one whole reel 
that was crying for cutting. It was the biggest hit of my 


career, and, by God, from now on, McNeil, you are the head- 
cutter at my studio at a good, stiff raise." 

The hero of many bloody battles in street and ring almost 
fainted. The can of film fell to the foyer floor. 

"What you got there?" asked Mack. 

"Nothing," said McNeil. "Just a can of film I want to 
tinker with some day." 

Southern California, with economic sagacity, began at 
length to exercise a proud paternalism toward its successful 
stepchildren. When they had made a place for themselves in 
the world, their minor peccadilloes were forgiven. Their 
amiable weaknesses were attributed to healthy animal spirits. 
Wisely, the legislators imposed no censorship rules on the 
films. Yet prior to the time that D. W. Griffith produced 
The Birth of a Nation, the motion picture and its people 
were anathema to the pillars of California society. 

As evidence of the righteous citizens' reluctance to accept 
the film folk as anything but impious freaks, children of the 
community were forbidden to approach the contagion areas 
of Hollywood. When Mae Marsh was a student at Holly- 
wood High School, she violated the taboo by joining the cast 
of The Birth of a Nation. The faculty snubbed her. Some 
of her fellow students mauled her and made her life so mis- 
erable that she had to leave school. A few pupils who had in- 
herent ideas of fair play wanted to see the picture in the 
making before casting stones at their schoolmate. They vis- 


ited the Griffith location. Their venial sin was discovered and 
they were expelled from school. 

When Griffith announced the release of The Birth of a 
Nation in Clune's Auditorium (now the Philharmonic), a 
pious howl arose. A congregation of Baptists held Sunday 
services in this hall. They regarded a motion-picture show as 
an iniquitous intrusion. Pastors elsewhere took up the hue 
and cry. But after they had seen the Griffith masterpiece, they 
came away full to the ears with moral sanction. 

It was becoming increasingly apparent that the movies 
were a major force in the social and educational life of the 
world. Those who condemned them most violently shifted 
their ground. They put on a cloak of sanctity, arose in their 
pulpits and forums and proclaimed, with wide-sweeping res- 
ervations, that the cinema might yet become an evangelical 

But the elastic reservations can always be counted upon 
to give these ranting Jeremiahs full scope for their jittery 
diatribes. With orgastic frenzy, they describe Hollywood as 
St. Beelzebub's See, and denounce its children as the remote 
offspring of Sodom and Gomorrah. The oratorical blasts of 
flatulent vicars, as they denounce the playful high jinks of 
the motion-picture capital, succeed only in making little boys 
and girls shiver — and long to go right out there. 

Poor Hollywood ! It is as quiet as any other graveyard. It 
has no night life whatever. There are two hundred and thir- 
teen accredited newspaper and magazine correspondents on 


the lookout for the least delinquency. This power of the press 
and the public avidity for scandal are a thousand times 
more effective than the finger-shakings and tongue-lashings 
of the moralists. 

It was no mere prank when Marshall Neilan, the director, 
rushed into the lobby of the palatial Hotel Ambassador, a 
bundle of newspapers under his arm, and shouted : 

"Extra! Extra! All about a white girl marrying a movie 
actor !" 

Chapter 19 


MACK SENNETT may never have heard of Shake- 
speare's admonition to suit action to the word. All 
the rollicking comedies sponsored by him showed superlative 
disdain for the word which embellishes or cloaks action. Mo- 
tion pictures, to him, were entirely visual, a kaleidoscope of 
images which, unaided by literary devices, carried their own 

Sennett was scornful of the written word, as such. He de- 
pended largely on happy improvisations for his early pic- 
tures. His far-flung enterprises at length precluded a hit- 
and-miss dependence upon inspirations. There were as many 
as nineteen comedies in the process of being filmed simul- 
taneously. The time would come when the five hundred 



French farces he had accumulated and revamped would be 
exhausted. If the most inventive dramatic chef threw these 
five hundred Gallic plots into a single casserole and let it sim- 
mer a fortnight, the result would be — Cinderella. 

When high-salaried comedians were kept idle, due to lack 
of story material, Sennett's blood-pressure mounted with the 
overhead. He had no recourse but to turn to the scriveners. 

"I don't want what they write," he rationalized. "I want 
the brains that are behind their writing." 

Sennett's distrust of the written word need not be taken 
for a gross illiteracy. He was convinced that authors seduced 
themselves with their own phrases. Besides, he was positive 
that a story gains more in the telling than in the writing. 
What cannot be remembered as oral narrative is not worth 
remembering. He clinched his argument beyond rebuttal by 
unexpectedly citing Homer and the Old Testament as monu- 
mental examples of word-of-mouth masterpieces. 

It was fortunate that someone had provided him with 
such classic precedents, for it was on this ruling that he de- 
nied the appeals of his authors for typewriters and quills. 
These toolless artisans had to produce their plots and charac- 
ter studies vocally and extemporaneously. When any new- 
comer among the scribes pleaded for a sheet of paper or a 
pencil, Sennett would say : 

"Don't write the story — tell it. You'll always find people 
more willing to listen than to read." 

The telling of a tale is, at best, an ephemeral accomplish- 


ment. Its moment is brief ; it is a child of the present, and it 
dies as it creates its effect. 

In the Sennett scheme, all stories were a compilation of 
fragments contributed under the exigencies of necessity and 
the flare of inspiration. No one man could claim fatherhood 
to the ultimate screen story. The work was all anonymous 
and communal. Thus was founded a new school of fragmen- 
tary writers — the gag-men. This inelegant title in no way 
indicates the vital contribution to motion pictures from these 
resourceful and sparkling artists. In every crisis they are 
called upon to perform miracles on moribund productions. 

Nowhere else in Hollywood did the gag-men enjoy such 
prestige as prevailed at Sennett's Edendale studio. A miscel- 
lany of wags, bonded together by the loose camaraderie of 
contempt, made Mack ponder on human ingratitude. To in- 
still a grain of esprit de corps and to create a semblance of 
organization, Sennett housed them in a bungalow of their 
own and sought for someone, in the role of "scenario edi- 
tor," who could harness these unbroken colts. He experi- 
mented with several Fiihrers. Craig Hutchinson was one of 
the early incumbents. When Hampton Del Ruth received a 
call, as a gag-man, he pondered over his qualifications. 

"What could you do with a fellow like me?" he asked 
Hutchinson. "I'm a playwright." 

"Don't worry," replied Hutchinson confidently. "What we 
want is dramatists — men who can write drama tilted a bit. 
Put the silk hat on cock-eyed." 


The weekly salary of $40 permitted Del Ruth to indulge 
in few excesses. He enjoyed sitting at a table with three or 
four of his confreres to sip beer and discuss nothing but 
gags. There he speculated on the curious fate of a serious 
dramatist occupied with such trivia. 

One night Sennett and Fatty Arbuckle entered the cafe. 
The King of Comedy saw his underlings and thought it a 
good time to exploit them after office hours. As he ap- 
proached their table, he overheard Del Ruth order "Rack of 
Lamb, a la Mack Sennett/' which was emblazoned on the 
bill of fare. It was a dish cooked with champagne. 

Mack placed his order and straightway began a story con- 
ference over the rack of lamb. He and Arbuckle were con- 
cocting a jewel-robbery scenario. The husband had stolen his 
wife's gems. He was on the roof and she was down below, 
howling at him, shaking her fist and umbrella, and demand- 
ing that he return the loot. The husband protested his inno- 
cence; his pantomime indicated that the valuables were in 
her handbag, which was a villainous misstatement of the 

"Now, boys," said Sennett, "we've got to devise a way of 
getting the jewels from the husband on the roof to the wife 
on the ground without her knowledge." 

Del Ruth said : "Why not have him slide the jewels down 
the rainspout and into her bag? You can hang the purse on 
the other end." 


'That's it," said Sennett, beaming on Del Ruth. "What 
business are you in?" 

"My name's Del Ruth. I've been working for you the last 
five weeks." 

"Is that so?" said Sennett, brevetting him on the field. 
"Well, from now on you're my scenario editor." 

After Del Ruth won his spurs as an editor, he wanted to 
become a director, but Sennett vetoed that ambition. When 
the editor threatened to quit, Mack raised his salary. Del 
Ruth tore up his contracts five times in two years. On each 
occasion Sennett gave him a salary increase and a new con- 
tract calling for three years' service at $1,750 a week. 

Finally, Del Ruth issued an ultimatum. "I'm going to quit 
unless you give me a chance to direct a picture." 

"Very well, then," said Sennett, "go ahead and direct." 

Del Ruth waited for two weeks for his assignment. Sen- 
nett kept saying: "Don't be impatient. We're working on a 
continuity for you." 

Del Ruth fidgeted, but Sennett would not yield a story. 
Del Ruth learned from his former underlings in the scenario 
department that they were working on a vehicle for Charlie 
Murray, but couldn't agree on details concerning the locale. 

After another two weeks of dilly-dallying, Del Ruth went 
to Sennett and said: "Well, what's holding up the Murray 
story? I understand it's about a plumber. A plumber nat- 
urally has a place of business. But your story geniuses can't 
seem to find a shop for him. Do you mind if, while they are 


getting his shop ready, I take a picture of the plumber's home 
life? I would like to give him a wife and two or three chil- 
dren. By the time I get this taken care of, they will un- 
doubtedly have a place for the plumber to work." 

"Go ahead and try it," said Sennett. 

Del Ruth began. He had the plumber's wife take in wash- 
ing — the plumber being a lazy artisan. The children were 
continually around the yard. The clothesline was strung on 
one of those circular, revolving affairs, and the youngsters 
used it for a merry-go-round. 

After another two weeks, Mr. Del Ruth suddenly was in- 
formed that the scenario department at last had the plumber 
story ready. When Del Ruth relayed this scenario to Sen- 
nett, Mack said : 

"Wait a minute. You've shot enough film as it is, and we 
don't need the new story." 

So, Riley's Wash Day, with Charlie Murray, came into 
being. At the end of Del Ruth's picture, the plumber went 
downstairs to investigate a leak — his first professional move 
during the entire performance. The pipes blew up, and the 
fadeout saw Murray hanging on a chandelier. The plumber 
never completed his job. 

When Del Ruth reported that he had completed the com- 
edy, Sennett said : "Oh, no. We must have a chase for the 
finale. I'll have somebody else make it." 

"Well," said Del Ruth, "I went out and photographed a 


story while waiting for the scenario, and I think I'm entitled 
to finish it. You haven't even looked at my picture." 

"Just keep calm," said Sennett, "and go sleep some place 
while we take the chase." 

Del Ruth became so enraged that he kicked Sennett's wire 
waste basket across the room. This was an act of lese-ma- 
jeste, especially since it was committed in the presence of the 
gagmen. Sennett's face purpled. Del Ruth wanted to run, but 
knew his career as a dignified director was at an end if he 
did so. He walked with tragic grandeur to the door, turned 
and released the following polysyllabic blast : 

"My dear Mr. Sennett. Before severing my ungodly con- 
nection with this noisome galley, I welcome the opportunity 
to deliver my valedictory in the reeking presence of your 
adulterous sycophants, and . . ." 

"Stop !" cried the King. "I won't have such dirty language 
in my establishment." 

". . . my dear Mr. Sennett, let me amplify. You are an 
unmitigated Carcharodon preying among bewildered shrimps. 
My erudite confreres will comprehend this piscatorial allu- 
sion. And in conclusion, my dear Mr. Sennett, you may take 
all the emoluments and perquisites of office and . . ." 

"Get out!" roared the infuriated ex-boiler maker. "And 
don't come back shooting off your mouth like that around 

The slamming door cut off Del Ruth's gracious adieu. 
Sennett suffered a lingual paralysis. He gesticulated in the 


manner of his best pantomimists. His meaning was clear. 
Abdul hastened to pour him a stiff drink. The tonic restored 
the use of his vocal cords. 

"Del Ruth's poor mother," he moaned cryptically. "His 
poor, poor mother!" 

It was not long, however, before Del Ruth was reinstated 
as an editor. The little contretemps was forgotten under the 
pressure of a new enterprise — a feature-length comedy. 
While the picture was in the formative stage, Del Ruth re- 
ceived an urgent message from the Los Angeles Athletic 
Club. Would he come over at once ? 

Del Ruth interrupted a pleasant social engagement to an- 
swer the Sennett summons. Arrived at the Club the editor be- 
gan at once to outline revised situations for the picture. 

Mack raised his hand in interruption. "To hell with all 
that. I was writing a letter to a girl in New York, and I 
wanted you to give me a lot of big words." 

Del Ruth never allowed his judgment to be clouded by his 
playwright's aversion to the meretriciousness of Hollywood's 
products. He saw in Sennett a man of exceptional resources 
and regarded him as an executive of the highest order. He 
esteemed his judgment of the public's taste in amusement. 
The means may have offended the dramatist's sensibilities, 
but he had to acknowledge that the results provoked unre- 
strained mirth in the millions. Once he told Sennett : 


"Your success lies mainly in your ability to write just up 
to the public's mental capacity. I think you are quite justified 
in continuing to do so." 

The next day a framed sign appeared on the wall of the 
scenario department. From the internal evidence, it repre- 
sented the sweat of Sennett's brow. 

"Remember : The extent of intelligence of the average 
public mind is eleven years. Moving pictures should be made 

The scenario department was always a thorn in the King's 
flesh. Nothing would induce its personnel to discipline them- 
selves, and all the efforts Sennett had made in that direction 
were wasted. None of the discipline was aimed at the moral 
behavior of his charges. It was designed solely to promote 
industry. Sennett could never fully understand why talent 
recognizes no office hours. 

As long as their overseer was present, the gag-men were 
visibly engaged in strenuous cerebration. Once his back was 
turned, they resumed their innocent pastimes — dicing, drink- 
ing, or promenading the primrose paths of nearby groves. 

Once when Sennett needed an emergency gag for a lag- 
ging comedy reel, he and Al McNeil entered the scenario 
bungalow. Not a writer was on duty. The entire staff were 
walking on the shores of Silver Lake, a mile or so away. 
There wasn't a scrap of paper to be found on which to leave 
a damning reprimand. There were, however, some empty 


bottles. Sennett wrote a note on a label and set the flask on 
Editor Del Ruth's desk. He then decided to move his scriv- 
eners nearer to the throne-room, to prevent mid-afternoon 

Sennett installed the writers in a pent-house on the roof of 
the administration building. He had to climb thirteen stair- 
steps to reach this cubicle. To make sure that they would 
hear him approaching, the crap-shooting and guzzling gag- 
men had the carpenter add an extra inch to the tread of the 
top step. Mack continually stumbled over this hurdle, won- 
dering what might be wrong with his feet. 

Sennett was the first producer to have a restaurant in a 
picture studio. He restricted the writers to one tuna-fish 
sandwich and a glass of milk at noon. Under no circum- 
stances were the waiters permitted to serve meat to carniv- 
orous authors. 

"Eating heavy stuff makes writers logy," he said. "Then 
they go to sleep, or, if they do keep their eyes open, they 
don't know what they're talking about. They work on one 
story in the morning, then go eat. And when they come back, 
they're so pregnant they don't know what story they've been 
working on, so they stall and pick up another story." 

The scriveners were obliged by edict to nibble their lunches 
on the lot. To get to the dining-room one had to climb a 
dark, winding flight of stairs. About every fourth stair was 
absent entirely. 

Writers are a hungry tribe — by tradition, by force of cir- 


cumstances and by congenital gastric disposition — so Sennett 
served "tea" in the afternoons, lest the boys die of starva- 
tion. This meager tiffin came at four o'clock. He advanced 
the service to four-thirty, then to four- forty-five and, finally, 
to five o'clock. After the Sennett samovar had done its duty, 
he would announce : 

"Well, now that we've eaten, we can go ahead and work 
some more." 

In this way, he sometimes would keep the crew busy until 
about nine o'clock in the evening, unless, of course, he had 
a romantic engagement. 

Sennett one day discovered that some of his emaciated 
hacks were sneaking into a restaurant across the street. It 
was operated by Katie, mother of one of the Keystone Cops. 
It was a combination restaurant, saloon and pool hall. Sen- 
nett was wroth at this competition and alimentary seduction. 
He ordered a list of names made of those who had flouted 
his rules concerning lunch. 

Whenever Sennett desired to rid his premises of offensive 
employes, he tried to avoid the sad task of firing them in 
person. His studio manager, John Waldron, also was chary 
of dismissal scenes. A victim's job sometimes lasted a month 
longer than it might have, due to the elaborate efforts of the 
studio owner and the manager to shift the onus of expulsion 
to each other. They finally devised a scheme to save them 
from delay and distress. When the sack-destined person ar- 


rived at the studio entrance on a Monday, the watchman 
greeted him with the remark : 

"No admittance — you finished Saturday night." 

Professor Rob Wagner, exponent of Greek physical and 
mental culture, was one of the Sennett employes to receive a 
sad message at the gate. Wagner was a pioneer gag-man. 
Sennett had tried time and again to reform the professor, to 
no avail. The learned Rob committed the cardinal sin of 
sleeping two hours after lunch every noon. A curtailment of 
the professor's diet failed to remedy his Morphean lapses. 
He had moved an old couch from a picture set to the gag- 
room, and used it for his slumbers. He maintained that these 
siestas re-charged his batteries and made his mind twice as 
valuable when he woke up for the afternoon conferences. 

"I can't see the point of that," Sennett said. "We'll have 
no couches here." 

His bed confiscated, Wagner went to a second-hand store 
and purchased a folding cot. He brought it to the studio one 
Saturday and took a nap. The following Monday the watch- 
man halted the professor at the gate and confided to him : 

"No admittance — you finished Saturday night." 

Mack made his men feel self-conscious when they quit 
work, even though it was time to go home. When the gag- 
men passed his office on their way out at 5 130 in the eve- 
ning, Sennett always had his door open, the better to scruti- 
nize his departing peons. When they tried to sneak out be- 


fore the stipulated hour, Mack would invariably look at his 
watch, then glower at the slinkers and return his timepiece 
to his pocket without saying a word. 

Also, about once every four months, Sennett would take 
up sentry duty at the studio gate at six o'clock in the morn- 
ing and stand there, watch in hand, to inspect everyone who 
entered. The men never knew when this painful ceremony 
might occur. 

Sennett would come to the gag-room early each afternoon, 
and although the men often had a complete story ready, they 
would give him only a portion of it and save the rest until 
the five-o'clock-tea conference. This meant they could invite 
their souls during the afternoon. 

Mack allowed no telephones, newspapers, books, cards, or 
other recreational devices in the gag-room. He often tried to 
catch his pupils at these distractions, but never succeeded. He 
even put on gum-shoes and for once remembered the pre- 
carious top step. The gag-men had been forewarned of his 
sleuthing intent. When Mack arrived, he found his serfs in 
an excited huddle, and they pretended not to know he was at 
the door. One of them was saying: 

"What really caused your uncle's death?" 

Another gag-man answered: "It was a strange case, but 
doctors say there's an epidemic of it. You see, Uncle Rodney 
always wore rubber heels. It seems that any kind of rubber 
worn on the shoes causes an incurable disease called Spinal 
Rigor Mortis. The newspapers don't dare print the facts be- 


cause, if they did, the manufacturers of rubber goods would 
jerk their ads right out of the papers. Poor Uncle Rodney ! 
He had so much to live for ! So young, too !" 

Sennett straightway retired to his office and threw his 
gum-shoes into the wire waste basket. 

Sennett had a habit of sitting with his head in his hands 
while he asked questions. He would then peer through his 
fingers, firm in the belief that his corporals did not know he 
was looking at them from behind this digital barricade. 

Men new to the gag-room often mistook his behind-the- 
fan posture as one of approval and frequently talked them- 
selves out of a job. 

Felix Adler, a comedy expert, recommended a friend to 
Sennett as a potentially great gag-man. This fellow had been 
a cartoonist. 

"Sennett has agreed to hire you," Felix told his friend. 
"Now take my advice and during a conference, no matter 
what happens, keep your mouth shut. Just go through the 
motions of thinking, but be sure to stay as silent as the 

This fellow followed Felix's instructions, and so mourn- 
fully taciturn did he seem that Sennett thought him a font 
of wisdom. In fact, Alack took to addressing his best ideas to 
the silent fellow, as though he were the Sphinx and held the 
answers to all life's riddles. Sennett inquired concerning 


Felix's protege and learned that he had a widowed mother 
and a house that was heavily mortgaged. 

Several weeks elapsed and the ex-cartoonist had not 
opened his mouth in conference. Then, one fateful day, he 
leaped to his feet and all eyes turned to him with a startled 
expression. Sennett was ready for a message from an oracle. 

"I know exactly what to do in this story, Mr. Sennett," 
said the former pen-and-ink proletarian. "The villain has a 
great big knife and chases Beery down the deck. Beery 
dashes into the cabin and locks the door !" 

Sennett waited for the rest of the divine utterance. "Yes? 
Now what does he do with the knife?" 

Mr. Adler's hitherto-reticent friend replied : "Mr. Sennett, 
that's for you to figure out." 

Sennett started for the door. "There goes your mortgage, 
your house, and your poor old mother, right out in the street. 
You fixed that." 

Sennett regarded certain trifling flaws in a picture as im- 
portant, but sometimes refused to remedy what seemed to 
others to be major defects. For example, in the Chaplin pic- 
ture, Shoulder Arms, there was a scene which showed Chap- 
lin carrying a musket. The next moment, the gun was miss- 
ing from Chaplin's shoulder. Immediately afterward the gun 
mysteriously appeared again. When this anachronism was 
called to Sennett's attention, he said : 

"We'll not re-shoot or re-cut the scene. The public and 


myself regard Chaplin as a genius. We are watching him and 
are absorbed in what he is doing. We are not worried about 
what the gun is doing. If what Mr. Chaplin is enacting is not 
funny enough or great enough to cover all mistakes in cos- 
tume, props or background, we should scrap the picture en- 
tirely and fire Mr. Chaplin. In this case we'll not re-shoot it, 
and we won't fire Mr. Chaplin." 

As with every child, the motion picture is the result of a 
collaboration. The first natural marriage of cinematic minds 
brought about the polygamous union of producer, director 
and author. Subsequently the common-law relationship 
among screen writers attained sanction by its fruit. Their 
collaboration became desirable and indispensable. Keystone 
was first to encourage the mating of quasi-literary minds. 

Three pioneers in the field of collaboration were Ray Grif- 
fith, Johnny Grey and Albert Glassmyer. These Keystone 
veterans survived campaigns that left the field strewn with 
bleeding Shakespeares. The history of slap-stick would be 
mournful, indeed, if the exploits of this triumvirate were ig- 
nored. They were experts in keeping their balance while 
twirling a fantastic world at vertiginous speed. Their tongues 
in their cheeks, they could watch the spectacle with the im- 
passiveness of a dreamy yogi and the scorn of a Caligula. 

Ray Griffith had appeared in several Sennett pictures. Dis- 
satisfied with his progress as a comedian, Griffith paid the 
Keystone janitor ten cents a day to perform a sly service. 


Whenever Sennett approached the comedians' dressing room, 
he found the porter convulsed in laughter. 

"Mr. Sennett, I can't help it," he articulated between 
spasms. "That man Griffith is so funny. So awful funny!" 

Suspicious, Sennett investigated. He disregarded Griffith's 
comic antics entirely. But he paid $5 for the idea behind 

Unable to impress Sennett with his pantomime, Griffith 
took his talent to Fox Studios. After a short season there, he 
quarreled with a director and left for New York. 

When Del Ruth finally resigned, and meant it, Sennett 
needed a new scenario editor. Mack's selective and lucky 
memory pounced on Griffith and the five-dollar sale. 

Griffith reported at Keystone to find no wheels turning. 
Ford Sterling had gone. Charlie Chaplin had joined Essanay 
for the tremendous salary of $1,250 a week. Several other 
comedians, stimulated by the Chaplin windfall, had struck 
for higher wages. And when Del Ruth had quit, Sennett 
climbed out of his bath, dressed, and went roaring through 
the lot, shouting defiantly : 

"Quit! All of you. You think you made me what I am? 
I'll show you. I can get up my own stories, build my own 
sets, photograph and direct my own pictures, and act the lead 
in them, too. Quit and be damned !" 

Griffith labored under the impression that Keystone had 
engaged him as a comedian. They talked over a story idea, 
and Sennett said : "That's the stuff. Now go to work." 


"Shall I use the old make-up?" asked Griffith. 

Sennett blinked. "Hell, no. I don't even remember your 
make-up. I can hire actors and directors by the dozen. You're 
more valuable to me as a writer. I can take property men and 
make directors out of them, but where in hell can I get 
writers ? You can't buy brains — they're not for sale. You've 
got to find them and bring them in." 

"Ill try to do the job," said Griffith. 

Fortunately for Griffith, Director Dick Jones was map- 
ping out a story upon which Griffith had worked elsewhere. 
How it had migrated to the Sennett lot, Griffith never knew. 
He began to bubble with ideas. Jones was astonished. Sen- 
nett was overjoyed. By the caprices of the Hollywood gods, 
Griffith, the comedian, became Mr. Griffith, the editor. 

Johnny Grey, the second of the three Sennett "literary" 
aces, was one of the wittiest citizens ever to dabble with cel- 
luloid. Besides, he was the finest title writer in the business. 
Keystone was the trail blazer in this field. Whenever the 
action lagged, or a new sequence needed a preface, a writer 
would compose a "leader." At Keystone, they were in the 
nature of jokes, and sometimes Grey's titles were so good 
that whole pictures were built around them. The vogue of 
captions proved contagious, and other companies, which pro- 
duced straight or dramatic pictures, began to hire flowery 
word-tossers or smart-cracking writers, men like Ralph 
Spence and H. M. ("Beanie") Walker. 


Grey was the son of a Brooklyn saloon keeper who wanted 
Johnny to study law. To please his ambitious parent, and for 
no other reason whatsoever, Grey completed a law course 
and served an apprenticeship in the office of Abe Hummell, 
the notorious New York barrister who afterward was dis- 

All this time, Johnny wanted to go on the stage. He finally 
played the juvenile in The Christian. Grey had a naturally 
pleasant voice and his training as a lawyer and an actor 
heightened the effectiveness of his tones and diction. 

This charming little man was forty-nine years old when 
he moved his whiskey bottles to the Sennett lot. Mack's pro- 
hibitions in regard to drinking on the premises were elastic 
when applied to writers. He saw early that he could not en- 
force a rule of abstinence during working hours. You may 
take away an author's bread, burn his works in the public 
square, throw him in jail for splitting an infinitive or drive 
him out of town for lampooning the mayor, but no mortal 
can tell him when and if he should drink, or where. 

Grey also had his own ideas concerning office hours. 
Headmaster Sennett once reprimanded him before his peers 
for chronic and incurable tardiness. Johnny answered : 

"My God! They don't pay a horse just for the little time 
it takes him to get round the track. They don't pay Ty Cobb 
only for the time he wins a ball game. It isn't time that they 
get paid for. It's performance. ,, 


Sennett said : "You don't think that you're a horse or Ty 
Cobb, do you?" 

"No," said Mr. Grey. "I don't sleep in a stable or wear 
a uniform." 

Sennett wanted to make a burlesque of the motion picture, 
The Three Musketeers. It was Johnny Grey's suggestion. 
Sennett had an inspiration. 

"We'll call it the Four Musketeers," he said. 

"You can't do that and stick to literary facts," said Grey. 
"There were only three musketeers." 

"The hell you say," Sennett remarked. "I saw the picture 
and I distinctly recall there were four fellows always fight- 
ing, and not three." 

"Three of them," said Grey, "were musketeers. And the 
other fellow was d'Artagnan." 

"I can count as well as you can. There were four of 
them," Sennett insisted, "and, what is more, none of them 
had muskets." 

The third member of this writing-group was Albert Glass- 
myer. He had been a music critic on a Philadelphia news- 
paper. He liked to argue the superiority of chamber music 
over symphonic music, and reminisce of his friendship with 
the New York critic, James Gibbons Huneker. Glassmyer 
was a retiring, self-effacing fellow, until drunk or until 
someone asked: "Who the hell was Huneker?" 

When America entered the World War, Johnny Grey in- 


sisted that Glassmyer change his name to the French spelling, 
Pierre Glassmiere. So he went to bed one night a German 
Lutheran and woke up next morning an Alsatian Catholic. 
Griffith and Grey called Glassmyer "Mr. Beamish," and al- 
ways referred to him in this manner in his presence, as 
though he weren't there at all. 

Grey was a liberal spender and was usually in debt. Glass- 
myer was frugal and had a bank account. One day in a res- 
taurant, Grey became annoyed at his colleague's tight-fisted 
predilection and shouted : 

"God damn it, why doesn't Mr. Beamish ever pick up the 
check ?" 

"It's prenatal influence," Glassmyer said. "The day before 
I was born my dear mother was frightened by a rent col- 

Glassmyer's thrift enabled him to build a bungalow court. 
When it had been finished, it was quickly filled with fam- 
ilies of many children. One day a gentleman with dark 
glasses appeared at the court and presented all the children 
with colored crayons. He explained to the mothers that he 
was popularizing a new kind of pencil, and that these were 

The results were horrifying to Glassmyer and the mothers. 
The children scrawled all over the walls, doors and side- 
walks. A shocked mother looked at the colored chalk marks 
and said: "I didn't think my little Arthur knew those 
words !" 


Glassmyer drank a bottle of whiskey and began to plan 
the slaying of Johnny Grey. He rightly surmised that Grey 
had been the man in dark glasses and had played this joke 
to punish him for his frugality. 

The Griffith-Grey-Glassmyer team worked in this manner : 
Griffith composed the story. Glassmyer brought in gags, old 
and new, and Grey titled the comedies. After they had agreed 
on a story-line, Griffith acted as spokesman, and recited it to 
Sennett. He was highly successful in this role. He acted out 
the plot, and emphasized the gags by writhing with laughter, 
crouching, leaping and bucking beneath the load of mirth. 

When new writers arrived, it was their habit to play "lone 
wolf." They usually were suspicious of the Fiddlers Three. 
The neophytes preferred to form their own stories and re- 
cite them to Sennett in person. They demanded private audi- 
ence to insure full credit of authorship for themselves. They 
were usually fired after the first recital — certainly at the con- 
clusion of the second. 

Once a Harvard bachelor of arts got a job and was as- 
signed to work with the three aces. They cautioned him to 
keep mum during conferences. After they had agreed on a 
plot, Grey took the scholar from the Charles River aside and 

"Let Griffith tell the story and get it over with. After all, 
this is just a job and our main concern is the pay envelope — 
not a degree cam laude." 


The four men called on Sennett to report progress. Be- 
fore Griffith could swing into action, the son of John Har- 
vard suddenly broke his moorings and went story-telling un- 
der full sail. His colleagues were marooned by the impulsive 
buccaneer. His narrative was entirely different from the one 
upon which they had agreed. It also was a much better story 
from every standpoint. Sennett listened for a while, then 
scowled and exploded : 

"Lousy! Go back to Yak!" 

The effervescent young man sat down, deflated. Griffith, 
after allowing the situation to die, said: "Now here, Mr. 
Sennett, how does this sound ?" 

He thereupon began to tell the very same story that the 
newcomer had recited, but acted it out, dressed it up a bit, 
put emphasis on the gags and, when he was finished, sat 
down. Sennett looked at the sunken academician and, with 
a withering grimace, said : 

"There, now! That's more like it. We'll make that one." 

It was Sennett's conviction that all comedy is based on 
tragedy. First you must have a dramatic, tragic story, then 
it must be transmuted into comedy. This procedure became a 
formula adopted by other producers, as in the following in- 
stance : 

A woman has an illegitimate child in a charity hospital. 
When she has recovered from her ordeal, she departs from 
the hospital with her child. She is so filled by shame that she 


decides to leave the baby with someone who will give it 
proper care. After that, she will commit suicide. 

On her way through the streets she sees an automobile. 
It is an expensive one, and she thinks that its owner must be 
well able to give her child the kind of home she cannot make 
for it. She places the child in the tonneau of the automobile 
and departs for the river. As she passes through a park on 
the river-bank, a child is playing beside its nurse. The child 
catches hold of the woman's skirt, and suddenly her maternal 
instinct obliterates all thoughts of disgrace or death. She 
runs back to get her child from the automobile, but the ma- 
chine has been driven away. 

She is frantic. She prepares to devote the rest of her life 
to a search for her baby. She gets employment in the theater. 
She becomes a great actress. But all the money and fame 
which she wins mean nothing to her. She thinks only of her 

This story emerged as one of the funniest pictures ever 
made. It was Charlie Chaplin's The Kid. By it he earned a 
million dollars in royalties. It introduced Jackie Coogan to 
the screen. Although Chaplin was the star, there was no men- 
tion of a grown-up man in the original outline of the 

When he saw how clever his boys were at concocting 
titles, Sennett tested their talents on matters not pertaining 
to stories or pictures. He wanted a name for the new dress- 


ing rooms he had erected for the women stars. The Fiddlers 
Three knocked off work and went into a huddle for two 
days. Finally, Mr. Sennett dismissed the idea when Grey 

"Let's call the ladies' quarters 'Shad Row.' " 

On another occasion, Sennett thought the village of Eden- 
dale should be re-named. He had been instrumental in the 
up-building of the community. His studio now contained 
many wonders. He had built a huge enclosed stage, the first 
of its kind. This structure had concrete piers and steel struts 
and beams, to hold the muslin difTusers. He had also begun 
the first night pictures in motion-picture history. Mack 
Swain had been summoned from bed one evening to try 
out the lights — not because Mack was the leading come- 
dian, but because he lived nearest to the Edendale plant. Af- 
ter the picture had been taken, Swain went home with Holly- 
wood's first case of Klieg eyes. 

Sennett now had a million dollars. It was invested in 
Edendale property and in bonds. He would not put any 
money in the bank. He justly considered himself a "person- 
age," and if Tom Ince could have a community named after 
him, Inceville, why shouldn't Sennett enjoy a similar distinc- 

The Fiddlers Three "caught on" the moment the King of 
Comedy mentioned "re-naming Edendale." They knew it 
was a great chance to have a week's lay-off from the story 


grind. They conferred daily with Sennett regarding pro- 
posals for Edendale's re-christening. 

Grey suggested "Sennettville," as a good name. 

"No," said Glassmyer. "It sounds like a hick town. I don't 
like 'ville' in anything. Too small." 

Sennett nodded sagely. He didn't want his name to be 
connected with anything tiny. Let Ince have his "Inceville." 

"I have a suggestion," said Griffith. "We should call it 
Sennett City." 

Mack wasn't sure that this was a suitable name, but Grif- 
fith began to go through a dramatic routine. He got to his 

"Why," he orated, "the newspapers will eat it up. Suppose 
a child is hit by a street car." Mr. Griffith fell to the floor to 
imitate a mangled urchin. He continued his harangue from 
the horizontal position. "Why, every newspaper will come 
out with headlines : 'Tiny Tot Crushed by Sennett City 
Street Car/ " Mr. Griffith got off the floor, still full of ora- 
tory. "And suppose there is a murder here." He began to 
stagger and hold his heart as though shot. "The newspapers 
will say: 'Man Slain by Jealous Mistress in Sennett City.' 
See? Your name everywhere, and connected not with 'Sen- 
nettville,' or 'Sennetton/ or 'Sennettberg,' but with 'Sennett 
City,' a metropolis." 

Mr. Sennett went toward the door. "I'll let you know to- 
morrow," he said. 

He never mentioned the matter again. Perhaps he forgot 

For four years "Mickey" was shown all over the 

world. It became known as the "mortgage lifter/' 

Mabel Normand in the title role. 


it. Or, as his aides surmised, perhaps he had not taken into 
consideration the fact that the city officials had something to 
say about changing the name of a suburb. 

Mack's building program included the construction of an 
elaborate restaurant. He called his Fiddlers Three into con- 
ference and said : 

"I want you to think up a name for the new restaurant." 

Once again the boys knocked off all other work and pre- 
tended to be engrossed in the new problem. They reported 
with many suggestions, taking care to proffer titles which 
they felt Sennett would veto. They wanted as much time 
for loafing as possible. 

Griffith proposed "The Cafe Comique." Glassmyer sug- 
gested : "The Sennetteria." So far as Sennett was concerned, 
his restaurant was the first and only one of its kind in the 
world. He explained. 

"I've got a great plan. Now, we know that a fellow comes 
home from work awfully tired and cross. And if he finds his 
wife tired and cross, and his house smelling of food, it makes 
him think of getting a divorce. Now suppose, instead of all 
this, it would be possible for these husbands and wives to 
say : 'Honey, let's go over to Mack Sennett's restaurant' — or 
whatever the name is to be?" 

"Do you mean," asked Grey, "that we're going to have a 
lot of yokels coming in here to eat ?" 

"They're not yokels," said Sennett. "They are self-respect- 
ing citizens." 


"They couldn't be self-respecting if they wanted to come 
in here," said Grey. 

Mack reproved him sententiously. "They are part of our 
public. They not only would see how pictures are made, but 
would get something to eat and a cup of coffee." 

Grey got up. "I've got it. Let's call it 'Mack's Coffee 

The conference was adjourned. The next day an unem- 
bellished sign appeared over the door of the commissary: 

There was an exposition at San Diego and the Chamber 
of Commerce asked the Los Angeles picture magnates to 
help make it a success. In partnership with Ince, Sennett 
purchased a large captive balloon. The two friends joined 
forces to show visitors to San Diego how motion pictures 
were made, and then let them purchase tickets for a ride in 
the balloon. 

Business was so slow that Sennett and Ince asked their 
stars to visit San Diego on Sundays to act as "shillabers." 
When the populace did not rush into the Sennett-Ince ex- 
hibit, Gloria Swanson, Wallace Beery, Arbuckle and others 
would fight their way through the crowd to shout: "Hey, 
mister, give me ten tickets for the balloon ride." 

After the exposition, Sennett wondered what had hap- 
pened to the balloon. Ince pretended he did not know, but 
Sennett's sleuths discovered the gas-bag stored in one of the 


property warehouses at Inceville. When Mack broached the 
subject, Ince said : 

"I didn't know it was there, but you can borrow it any 
time you need it." 

Sennett borrowed it to play a joke on Johnny Grey. 
Johnny had been drinking and was sure to be absent from 
home until late that night. Sennett and his aides put the bal- 
loon in his apartment. Then, through a window, they in- 
flated it from a compressed-air machine until the bag bulged 
and filled the apartment. When Grey came from the saloon, 
he was unable to open his door, because the full-blown bal- 
loon prevented. A puzzled landlord summoned the police, 
who thought themselves suddenly gone daft . 

The placement of unusual and large objects in Grey's room 
became a pastime among his friends. On his fiftieth birthday, 
he went home to find in his living room a ten-horse plough. 
It had been dismantled, taken piece by piece into the Grey 
home, and there re-assembled at the order of Ray Griffith. 

Grey figured out how much Sennett's income was and re- 
duced it to terms of cents per minute. Whenever Sennett 
came in to bawl out the staff, Grey would bring out his 
watch. Once after the "Old Man" had gone, Grey said: 
"Well, that cost him just $11.40." 

Had Sennett thought in these business-efficiency terms, he 
might have curtailed his tirades. The practice of small econo- 
mies had become a phobia with him. Although he would in- 


vest $10,000 in a single gag, he resented having the swim- 
ming pool filled too often. It cost $12. 

Sennett's three gag-men pretended to be ashamed to take 
credit for anything they had concocted for Keystone pictures. 
When anyone asked : "Who wrote that picture?" Grey would 
reply with hasty loyalty: "Mr. Sennett. He writes them all." 

The gag-men were on the alert to learn when sweethearts 
in the troupe were having quarrels. Whenever this happened, 
the Fiddlers Three would work laboriously to figure out 
scenes where the disgruntled lovers would have a great deal 
of embracing and kissing. Then the trio would sit on the 
sidelines to study the amatory reactions of people who hated 
each other. 

One of the titles written by Griffith for Ben Turpin con- 
cerned a situation in which Turpin shot his inamorata's hus- 
band, in her presence, saying: "Don't look, sweetheart. You 
can read it in the papers tomorrow !" For a picture in which 
the wife was slain by her sweetie, he wrote: "Your wife's 
in there with the undertaker," and in another opus, dealing 
with homicide, had a gentleman say to his mistress : "I hate 
murder. It's so hard to explain." 

The Griffith-Grey-Glassmyer combination turned out thir- 
ty-six comedies their first year. Their product was so good 
that Sennett gave them more money and increased their 
schedule. He at last consented to let them get some of their 
ideas down on paper, but thought it best if they dictated to 
a secretary. 


The first secretary allotted to the screen writers was a girl. 
Sennett had to get rid of her. His men could not speak their 
minds while addressing a lady. 

The first male secretary, called "Judge," had been a court 
stenographer. During the five years he listened to and re- 
corded gags, no one ever saw him laugh. He always seemed 
amazed when he heard Sennett say: ''That's right. That's 
funny." He would look up to see if everybody had not gone 
suddenly mad. Nobody ever asked his opinion concerning 

A second secretary, Lew Arlen, had a fine sense of humor. 
He was not a boisterous fellow, but could be funny on occa- 
sion. The Fiddlers Three liked him particularly because he 
would let them see the boss's mail. Sennett sometimes won- 
dered how his brilliant gag-men kept so well informed. 

Mack Sennett made the first motion-picture satire on it- 
self. It was called A Small Town Idol and antedated Merton 
of the Movies and all other stories and stage-plays dealing 
with the screen. It was a great hit. It was the story of a 
rural lad's entry into the movies and his rise. Ben Turpin 
was the star, and Johnny Grey wrote a title for a scene show- 
ing Turpin in a church praying to heaven to send him light. 
While Turpin kneeled the window fell on him, and the title 

"Either Heaven has heard me, or the window needs fix- 


In another scene of the same picture, Turpin is portrayed 
as a mob runs him out of town. The mob leader has a rope, 
with which to hang the cross-eyed comedian. Grey's title for 
this scene was : 

"This may be for the best, but I doubt it." 

Sennett was so stirred when he saw the rushes for one 
scene of The Small Town Idol, in which Turpin was being 
taken by the mob up a hill, a rope about his neck, that he 
likened it to Calvary. He was much annoyed when the Fid- 
dlers Three crossed themselves every time this part of the 
picture was shown. Sennett was deeply religious. 

When critics saw The Small Town Idol their adjectives 
were fulsome. One of them likened Sennett to Moliere. This 
clipping pleased Sennett no little, but he brought the criticism 
to Johnny Grey and asked : "Who is this fellow Moly-some- 

Griffith interposed: "Moliere was a smart French plagi- 
arist who hired three men to do his thinking for him.' , 

Chapter 20 


THE Moliere of the silver sheet solemnly and abruptly 
revealed to his cabinet a grandiose plan to invade the 
province of serious photo-drama. He commanded his bonnie 
lads temporarily to cease piping the jig and take up the fan- 
fare of melodrama. Nothing less would satisfy him than 
a tear-drenched masterpiece designed to rival the celluloid 
sobs of da Vinci Griffith and the commercial war-whoops of 
Rodin Ince. 

When the ministers heard this grave pronunciamento, they 
sought for the usual occult meanings in the wizard's mumbo- 
jumbo. Accustomed to Sennett's oblique practices, the stew- 
ards of the comic cauldron were slow to accept his weird 
recipe. They were a bit uneasy about the whole business. 



Apparently their indefatigable Merlin was contemplating 
some new way of deploying on the stronghold of mirth. 
They waited for enlightenment. 

As days passed and the King of Comedy continued to 
make manifest the architectonics of his dramatic scheme, his 
harried subjects wondered if he were not in the grip of a 
delusion of grandeur. At length they arrived at the sad con- 
clusion that the monarch of the clowns himself was bitten by 
that insidious bug which stings so many comedians. Once 
nipped by this insect, Pagliacci spends his off-stage hours in 
daffy introspection and weeps to think upon the irreparable 
loss the world sustains because he does not play the tragedian. 
Even in the skull of Yorick there seems to linger the dream 
of playing the Hamlet role. 

The veteran retainers at Keystone had learned never to 
seem startled by King Mack's sudden whimsies. When he 
decided to exchange sock for buskin, the gag-men began at 
once to commune with the tragic muse. The title, Heart 
Balm, was chosen for the first of Sennett's emotional dramas. 
The best minds of the Keystone faculty evolved a heroine 
who loved not wisely but too well. They concocted a lach- 
rymose theme. Their leading lady had no alternative; her 
choice lay between disgrace as a paid mattress-fiend or vindi- 
cation from her betrayer who must stand and deliver. Sen- 
nett scrutinized every ingredient that went into this witch's 
brew. He was doubly solemn, in or out of his bath, and went 
about his work with the manner of a Booth — the one who 


shot Lincoln. During these days of gestation, he stood at his 
Tower window and gazed glumly on his empire. 

Some jaundiced critics said that his window-staring was 
not entirely due to the creative and tragic mood. He was 
having a foundation built for a dynamo, and it was whis- 
pered that he espied upon the artisans to learn whether they 
were giving their best. It was war time, and skilled labor was 
otherwise conscripted. Sennett had taken the trouble to ascer- 
tain how many bricks a mason should set per day. He was 
told that a workman usually laid eight hundred bricks a day 
for a wall, four hundred for a fireplace or twelve hundred 
for a foundation. 

"Well, this is a foundation," he said, as he returned to his 
conferences over Heart Balm. 

While the Sennett pundits were wrangling over a point 
of this tear-stained plot, their chief stood at his window. 
He answered all questions without turning his eyes from the 
power-house site. His uninterrupted mumbling indicated 
something or other. 

At five o'clock that evening the brick mason dropped his 
trowel a split-second after the town whistles began to blow 
workmen's taps. Sennett turned from his window. 

"Abdul, catch that fake bricklayer at the gate, and tell him 
he is fired. He laid only eight hundred and sixty-two bricks 
the whole damned day. I counted 'em." 

With the arrival of a new and nimbler mason, Sennett 
plunged again into Heart Balm and finished it. He was ef- 


fervescently pleased with Johnny Grey's flowery titles, al- 
though he objected to one which described a sunrise as "the 
diffusing glow that comes over the mellow fields of old 

"Take that out," said Sennett. "It sounds too much like 

There were psychic vibrations in the air as Sennett made 
ready to pre-view his dramatic opus. To lend an aura of dig- 
nity, he invited the veteran theatrical producer, Daniel Froh- 
man, to attend the unveiling ceremonies. On their way to the 
theater, Sennett and Frohman spoke of art. Mack confided 
his ambitions in respect to screen culture. Inside the play- 
house, Frohman took a seat at Sennett's right hand. The 
host kept bombarding the noted impresario with facts con- 
cerning the aesthetic significance of Heart Balm. The lights 
died down and the picture was begun. 

Less than fifty feet of Heart Balm had been unwound 
when the audience commenced to shriek. These convulsed 
folk thought Sennett's grimly conceived tale one of the fun- 
niest yet to emerge from the Keystone cornucopia. Sennett 
was startled. The world's leading dealer in the commodity 
of mirth had never been misled by such a furore. Here was 
genuine laughter. 

Mr. Frohman, as deeply embarrassed as Sennett, groped 
in the semi-darkness for Sennett's clenched hand and shouted 
above the tumult of laughter : 


"I congratulate you on a very telling satire on American 

Artistically bruised but commercially alert, Dr. Sennett 
removed his Heart Balm to the clinic. At first he was inclined 
to let the patient die. Professional ethics and potential profits, 
however, convinced him that such a procedure would consti- 
tute gross and criminal malpractice. He who had been so un- 
erring in his judgment of audience response to comedy now 
was puzzled at his failure to estimate the public's reaction to 
heart-tugging drama. Reluctantly he determined to purge 
Heart Balm and rehabilitate it as a comedy. 

He renamed his picture The Crossroads of New York. He 
instructed Johnny Grey to write comedy titles to supplant the 
bombastic captions which had convulsed the audience at the 
premiere. He had McNeil eliminate certain of the tear- 
ful, and by far the funniest, scenes. And right here the hith- 
erto infallible King of Comedy made a grave mistake. The 
doctored tragedy, released as a comedy, failed. 

Sennett, however, never entirely relinquished a conviction 
that he could have made screen history in the mirthless field. 
He began to produce educational pictures as a side-line. 

His earlier ventures in the "educational" milieu had been 
the result of commercial emergencies. As mentioned before, 
when a comedy was cut to two hundred and fifty feet, he had 
to fill in with another two hundred and fifty feet of "some- 
thing." The Zuni Indians and the tuna-fish canneries had 
been among these inescapable program-padders. 


The sight of big fish had led Mack to become a devotee of 
deep-sea angling. This sportsman's interest, together with 
the importance of tuna fish in cans, led Sennett to contem- 
plate a series of nautical epics. He bought a condemned brig, 
Hermia, which had been standing for five years in San 
Pedro harbor. Only his most intrepid photographers and 
actors would sail on this decayed tub. The gag-men called it 
Hernia. Wives of Sennett's principals lived through weeks 
of anxiety while their loved ones were adrift at sea, cavort- 
ing on the buckled decks of this barnacle-draped hulk. Finally 
the government inspectors decided to save Sennett's crew 
from themselves. They took measures to forbid Hermia s 
educational cruises. Mack hired a proctor in admiralty to 
thwart official action. The issue was settled by Neptune him- 
self. As though broken in spirit, as she most certainly was 
in keel, bulkhead and prow, senile Hermia dipped her pos- 
terior low in the tide, sank fifty fathoms under and sat in the 
seaweed gardens of Davy Jones. Fortunately no Keystone 
educators were aboard at the time — else the world would 
have had to suffer another submarine epic. 

Undaunted by Hermia' s loss, Sennett purchased a yacht, 
hired divers and spent a fortune on under-sea pictures. He 
became the victim of salt-water charlatans. Anyone who 
smelled of bilge or walked with bow-legged mariner's rickets 
could sell himself to Skipper Sennett as a maritime author or 
actor. These aqueous projects were an educational success, 
but Mack's suffering of a sea change was costly. His public 


preferred the skull-cracking forays of dizzy comedians to 
any duel between under-water vertebrates. 

We have noted how the phcenix of comedy arose from 
tragic ashes during Sennett's story conferences. In con- 
sonance with that tragi-comic technique, Mack selected his 
players for particular roles in a curious manner. If one of 
his actors or actresses was scheduled to play a certain part, 
Mack would pretend that some luminous star from another 
studio was to appear in the piece. This system of make- 
believe came to be known as "mythical casting." 

Sennett would interrupt a story improvisation to ask: "Do 
you think this plot suits Mary Pickford?" or, "I can't quite 
see Francis X. Bushman in this part." Neither of these per- 
sonages, of course, was remotely connected with Keystone. 
Sennett would mention other actors as though they were at 
his beck, whereas the Louise Glaums, Alice Joyces and Car- 
lyle Blackwells were not to be had by him for any amount 
of money or effort. 

The assembled gag-men were as solemn as Bond Street 
tailors whenever their chief designer measured his cloth for 
actors who never in God's world would wear the Keystone 
garments. If he asked, "Now, be frank. Do you think Theda 
Bara will give us a good performance?" the lieutenants par- 
took of the pipe-dream as though their souls were at stake. 
Sometimes they were a nightmare ahead of Sennett in this 
fabulous game. If Ray Griffith were to say, "Just a minute; 


we are getting away from Maurice Costello characteriza- 
tion," Sennett would look through his fingers and say : "Keep 
in bounds, boys. This is Maurice's picture." 

During the evolution of A Small Town Idol, Sennett said : 
"Whoa! Can Wallace Reid do all the things we have in 
mind? What do you think, Glassmyer?" 

The former Philadelphia music critic pondered, then said : 
"Reid can do it if he'll only put his heart in the role." 

The other gag-men nodded sagely, knowing full well that 
Sennett's "Wallace Reid" was Keystone's cross-eyed Ben 

Despite this folderol, Sennett never supplied a conference- 
room alias for Mabel Normand. She was a striking exception 
to his "mythical casting" rule. He always spoke of her sim- 
ply as Mabel Normand. A reverent light would come to his 
eyes, a quiet tone to his voice, when he mentioned her for a 
picture. In his heart she was the embodiment of every ro- 
mantic character. 

Few critics have disputed Mabel Normand's right to a 
special niche in the motion-picture hall of fame. There is, 
however, a divergence of opinion as to her exact artistic 
stature. The many-faceted personality of Mabel Normand 
obscured her few professional defects in the eyes of her own 

Legends seldom can be depended upon for a completely 
fair or unbiased appraisal of character. A legend may be- 


come encrusted with many implausible fictions. But at the 
core there must be truth, or the legend has no chance of sur- 
vival. About the memory of Miss Normand there has grown 
a cluster of half -true and half -apocryphal stories which pay 
tribute to her courage, her generosity and her charm, or 
which besmirch her with calumny and disgrace. No attempt 
to find the core of truth at the center of the Normand leg- 
ends can ignore the qualities which differentiate the woman 
from the actress. Even to herself, the real of life and the 
unreal of her medium seemed inseparably fused. 

Miss Normand has been likened to Charlie Chaplin. De- 
spite the environment of slap-stick with the Ford Sterling 
genre of muscular comedy, Mabel Normand had the inherent 
quality of Chaplin's grace of expression, his ability to repre- 
sent pathos beneath the comic veneer. It is no slur on her 
craftsmanship to suggest that she lacked the masterly under- 
statement which distinguished the performance of the Lime- 
house Garrick. Perhaps the fundamental difference between 
these gifted persons was that Mabel's irrepressible person- 
ality dominated her art, whereas Chaplin's consummate art 
towered above his personality and bent it to the will of 

These actors played opposite each other many times. Ma- 
bel's work always urged Chaplin to superlative efforts. He 
stole, in theatrical parlance, few scenes and fewer pictures 
from her without an exercise of his full abilities. It must be 
borne in mind, however, that Mabel entered these lists with 


every advantage that Sennett could provide her, the best 
stories and the best directors. The boiler-factory Svengali 
jealously watched over his Trilby. She was his beloved as 
well as his star. 

Denied an education, Mabel Normand naively imagined 
that the whole world thirsted, as she thirsted, for knowledge. 
With the acquisition of great wealth, the lack which she 
felt most keenly and sought to remedy was her lost oppor- 
tunity for study. Books became a fetish with her, even 
though she groped through them without direction. Vicari- 
ously she fulfilled a desire for academic advantages by send- 
ing many girls to college. 

Two factors combined to make Mabel's life a tragedy. She 
was loved at first sight by millions, and she elected to live 
her life openly and without apology for her impulses. She 
loved life too well to hide within the cloisters of art. She 
did not know that her millions of idolaters were as exacting 
as importunate lovers. 

A weirdly powerful relationship, unspoken and unwritten, 
exists for a little day between the public and its stars. Many 
patrons of the motion picture look upon the dimes they drop 
into the box-office window as payment in full on a solemn 
contract for the right to control the private concerns of their 
screen favorites. Ostensibly, these patrons pay for entertain- 
ment. Implied in the bond, however, is a fantastic dream- 
marriage which makes an audience the spouse of someone 
they may never have seen in the third dimension. A fierce 

The King of Comedy lias just reminded Gloria Swanson of the 
good old days when she earned $65 a week. 


jealousy rages. The public is Caesar. His cinematic wife must 
be above suspicion. 

The mass ownership of a celebrity makes of the star a 
queen bee. Obeisances are offered her; she is accorded 
royal rank, but is, withal, a prisoner in a hive. She has no 
privacy, and if she insists upon a life of her own, she is de- 
spised and rejected. When she chooses to remain in seclusion, 
she must suffer innuendo, which, if cast upon a woman in 
everyday life, would bring shotguns to the shoulders of the 

The mad desire of human beings to maul their idols has 
been described in all its pathological manifestations by crowd 
psychologists in terms of religious frenzy. Cases histories 
abound in the cinema. 

There is a curiously sad implication in the fact that hun- 
dreds of thousands mourned the death of Marie Dressier. 
Yet, had she refused to permit the public to manhandle her 
with violent, loving embraces, to keep her standing for hours 
on aging and tired feet while a smile belied her knowledge 
that she was dying, this grand old trouper undoubtedly would 
have alienated many of her admirers. 

Joan Crawford, stormed by worshippers, was almost un- 
dressed when she went for a "quiet" walk. She suffered in- 
dignities that would have put her molesters in the booby 
hatch, had she been a shop girl instead of a star. 

The roof of Mary Pickford's taxicab was torn off by the 
tornado of public esteem in a New England town. America's 


Sweetheart asked the press to say nothing about the inci- 
dent, lest her screen lovers think that she was being untrue 
to them. 

The world's record demonstration by movie zealots, how- 
ever, occurred in La Belle France. The victim was Charlie 
Chaplin. After he had made his first million dollars, he went 
to Europe for a vacation. He slipped away from a Parisian 
hotel to wander incognito in an obscure district on the Left 
Bank. No one recognized him. He was happy. After all, there 
was some privacy, if one had the patience to seek it. 

As he strolled along, Mr. Chaplin suffered an abdominal 
cramp. He inquired of an angelic porter where one might 
find a W.C. Mr. Chaplin knew no French and the porter 
knew no English. After some ineffectual parley in two lan- 
guages, Chaplin became apprehensive. The stomach ache was 
now almost beyond control. He did some pantomime. He 
postured, grunted, wriggled and rolled his eyes to heaven. 
The porter was aghast. A madman loose in the Latin Quar- 
ter! Probably the third son of a dissipated earl. The porter 

Chaplin hastily tried all the resources of his art on a cab 
driver. This fellow was highly amused. He called to several 
of his confreres. They, too, watched the Chaplin contortions. 
Occasionally they applauded, as only the French can when 
reference is made to bedroom or bath. Several cocottes joined 
the throng. Chaplin was dismayed. Everyone believed his 
pantomime to be in the best traditions of the art. 


Finally, and after Chaplin was ready to yield to the mer- 
cies of nature, a godsend, in the shape of a cheese vendor 
came from his shop doorway to ask Chaplin in English: 
"Do you want a job? You could draw in the customers, my 
amiable citizen. " 

Chaplin held his abdomen and gasped: "Not a job. A 

The cheese vendor began to consider this problem. At this 
moment Chaplin unwittingly did a few desperate steps of his 
famous walk. The cheese vendor's eyes popped as he pointed 
at Chaplin and shouted : "Chariot ! Chariot !" 

It was a magic name. That and the walk enlightened every- 
one. The audience began to mob Chaplin. The cheese vendor, 
however, helped him to the backyard of his own store, where 
there stood a building fully as ornamental and useful as any 
of its Missouri cousins. Chaplin dashed for its hospitable 
seclusion, the mob at his heels. He barely succeeded in slam- 
ming the door and fastening it from the inside with an an- 
cient wrought-iron hook. 

By now he was unmindful of the great tumult outside, the 
hammering at the door and the shouts of "Chariot! Char- 
lot !" But soon he was amazed to see the walls of the build- 
ing fall. The front wall was first to go, what with a con- 
tingent of Latin Quarter admirers using a long wooden 
bench as a ram against the door. Then the wall on the port 
side collapsed. The starboard wall yielded next. Then the 
after-bulkhead went by the board with Chaplin barely escap- 


ing the fate of the brave captain who goes down with his 
ship. The mob now began fighting and screaming among 
themselves. They wanted portions of the blessed ruins as 
souvenirs of the unprecedented occasion. A wine peddler with 
a great red beard gripped the door, but released it when 
struck by one of his own bottles. The hinges were pried off 
by a concierge, who consented, after a loud bargaining, to 
part with one hinge for fifty-three francs. The toilet seat 
had disappeared mysteriously. Amid cries of robbery, scan- 
dal, double-dealing, there were threats to lynch a suspect, a 
grape-louse exterminator from Gascony. Two urchins were 
having a tug-of-war with the wrought-iron hook. Their 
grandfather claimed they had stolen it from his pocket. He 
began to cane them. 

During this fierce melee, Chaplin's stomach ache vanished. 
He managed to flee, just as a group of grisettes and their 
tough-looking escorts set upon him, presumably to confiscate 
his pants. 

He decided never again to cross the Seine if there were the 
least symptom of undue peristalsis. 

After Chaplin had deserted Keystone, Sennett patiently 
sought to develop a successor to the now-famous English- 
man. In this, Mack resembled the fight manager who peren- 
nially hopes for the rise of "another Jack Dempsey," or the 
impresario who dreams of "another Caruso." Sennett de- 


veloped many stars of importance, but "another Chaplin" is 
yet to be discovered. 

He relied more and more on Mabel Normand. He ex- 
ploited her, but she never faltered or complained. There was 
no hazard that frightened her. When Sennett said, "You'll 
dive from a ship's crow's nest into the ocean," she would not 
ask how high a crow's nest was, but would reply: "When 
do we do it, Mike?" 

Mabel's willing response to Sennett's pictorial demands 
roused him to a sense of obligation to the little star. He real- 
ized that years had passed without his having made good 
his intentions of marriage. He asked Mabel to set a date for 
their wedding. She did so, and the month was June, and the 
year, 191 5. 

It was then that Mabel introduced to Sennett a girl with 
whom she once had served as an artist's model in New York. 
Mabel importuned her fiance to give her friend a chance in 
motion pictures. Mack complied. 

Two weeks before the marriage date, Mabel heard dis- 
quieting rumors. She was told that the girl was "making a 
set for Mack." Mabel ridiculed this gossip. Evidence was 
accumulating that her fiance was enjoying a "last fling" be- 
fore settling down to married life. Mabel was not prudish. 

But the rumors grew until Mabel became genuinely dis- 
turbed. One evening she called on the girl, intending to ask 
her if the reports were true. As they sat talking of generali- 


ties, Mabel became ashamed of her suspicions and held her 
peace. She drove off to Los Angeles. 

As she entered her own apartment, she realized that her 
handbag was missing. Thinking she had left it at her friend's 
house, she put in a telephone call. There was no answer. She 
started to undress, for she was tired; but the missing bag 
worried her. She decided to drive back to recover it. 

There was no response to Mabel's knock. She heard the 
phonograph playing upstairs. She went around the house 
and entered by the back door. She walked into the kitchen, 
then the living room. No one was there. Mabel went upstairs. 
She heard Sennett's voice inside the bedroom. She opened 
the door. 

The marriage was called off. Mabel did not return to work 
at Keystone for many days. There are various reports con- 
cerning the aftermath of the incident. Minta Durfee says 
that Mabel came to the Arbuckle house, went to bed and lay 
there as though in a coma for three days. 

Sennett was beside himself with remorse. He ordered 
flowers. Mabel would not accept messages that he sent al- 
most hourly to the Arbuckle home. Finally, Fatty pleaded 
Sennett's feeble cause. A compromise was reached. There 
would be no more romantic allusions between the King of 
Comedy and his star. Their only relationship would be a 
business arrangement, and that to terminate with Mabel's 
present contract. 

In the hope of redeeming himself, Mack planned a six-reel 


picture, designed as a comedy, with a hint of Sennett's 
dream of tragedy. 

His mother came West to see "what had happened.'' Ma- 
bel adored this grand old lady, who never stood in awe of 
her successful son. Mamma Sinnott recently had been to 
Rome. She carried to Edendale a great many beads which 
had been blessed by the Holy Father. She gave Mabel a 
rosary and comforted her. 

Mamma Sinnott was a great favorite with the gag-men, 
although they shied at her religious aphorisms. They found 
that she had a fine sense of humor, and they liked to hear her 
upbraid her son. 

The picture which Mack planned as atonement for the in- 
jury done Mabel was called Mickey. She was unable to begin 
it for a long time. The first of a series of illnesses kept her 
in bed. She had sinus trouble, and to alleviate it, she occa- 
sionally took a narcotic. This gave rise to the persistent re- 
port that she was an incurable "dope." 

Mickey was begun in 1916, and was not finished until the 
next year. An epidemic of misfortunes beset it. From the be- 
ginning, the picture seemed doomed. Illness, accident, story 
changes and all other trials known to motion-picture produc- 
tion hounded this work. Then, after Mickey was completed, 
the big exhibitors refused to buy it ! They insisted it was too 

Mickey had eaten into Sennett's personal capital and was 
consuming some of the assets of his company. He had neg- 


lected other work to make this picture a success. He felt that 
his heart, as well as his bank roll, was at stake. 

Sennett took his film East, to peddle it in person. He met 
with one rebuff after another. Men who wanted to buy it 
solely because of Sennett's unimpeachable record as a comedy 
producer said they had to refuse. Finally Kessel and Bauman 
put Mickey on the shelf, a total loss of $600,000. Sennett 
was downcast. Mabel refused to renew her contract with 
Keystone. Arbuckle also accepted a better offer. The plight 
of the King of Comedy was becoming more and more seri- 
ous. He had met every emergency bravely. He was not afraid 
of financial loss ; what hurt him most was that his stars de- 
serted him. 

Mickey had been on the shelves of a New York film ex- 
change for almost a year. One Saturday night, a small the- 
ater at Bayside, Long Island, failed to receive its allotted 
picture for Sunday's program. The manager telephoned the 
film exchange. A new man, unfamiliar with the office, sent 
a messenger with a set of six reels. The manager did not 
know what the picture was. Nor did he care; his theater 
would not be dark on Sunday. 

The randomly chosen cans of film contained Sennett's 
Mickey. The theater manager was unaware of its history or 
of the fact that the big exhibitors had turned it down a 
year ago. It was immaterial to him that this feature had 
been repudiated and shelved. By three o'clock Sunday after- 


noon a line of patrons stood two deep and for three blocks 
at his showhouse. He ran the film until midnight, and still 
the throngs came. 

The news of the Mickey success spread to other Long 
Island towns. Finally it was given in New York. It was a 
smash hit, a record breaker. For four years Mickey was 
shown all over the world. It became known as "the mortgage 
lifter. ,> 

Sennett asked Mabel to return to work. There would be 
other Mickeys. She said she would never come back to Key- 
stone. Her pride kept her away. She accepted a year's con- 
tract from Samuel Goldwyn at a salary of $175,000. She 
who had been so dependable and eager to work, now balked, 
played truant. She behaved recklessly, concealing from her- 
self as well as from the world what gnawed at her heart. 
She sought escape, solace. 

In the midst of a Goldwyn picture, and without warning, 
Mabel vanished from the set. She went to New York, 
stopped only long enough to obtain a passport and sailed for 
France. She became the darling of Parisian dressmakers and 
startled the blase capital by ordering a cloth-of-gold gown, 
said to have cost $10,000. She drank wine and bought gems. 
She threw money to the servants. The sycophants of the 
boulevards encouraged her madcap career. 

One morning, awakened by remorse, she ordered the maid 
to pack her luggage. She was going home. Home ? Had she 


ever had a home since the days she spent in Staten Island, 
playing baseball with the boys of the neighborhood? 

Half-way across the Atlantic, she recovered her spirits 
enough to startle a boresome tiger hunter by diving nude into 
the ship's swimming tank. The Bengal explorer proposed 
marriage. Mabel suddenly felt the lack of one of Mack's 
property bludgeons. She uttered a loud meow and the daunt- 
less tiger stalker sought shelter at the bar. 

A group of Mabel's girl friends welcomed her at the New 
York pier. They wanted to see the widely publicized gown 
made of golden thread, a creation which weighed forty 

"I'll do better than that," said Mabel. 'Til take you to the 
place where I bought it." 

She obtained passports for the girls and promptly left for 
Europe, while Samuel Goldwyn groaned over the long-dis- 
tance telephone. The Parisians were amazed and gladdened 
by the swift reappearance of Lady Bountiful. She purchased 
outfits and presents for her party. There were nightly wine 
suppers — but no lasting escape from the imminence of trag- 
edy. She tried to analyze this strange foreboding, wept and 
then gave way to wild outbursts of laughter. 

"I've got hysteria of the soul," she said. "Drink up." 

Once again she returned to America, and found another 
group of friends awaiting her. When they jestingly said it 
was "time to take another trip to Europe," she accepted it 
as a dare. There were more passports, another crossing and a 


third descent on the gowners, the perfumers and the jewel- 
ers of the ancient city of saints and sewers. Samuel Goldwyn, 
in far-away Hollywood, chewed his fingernails and said : 

"It's a carriage of misjustice." 

The three successive invasions of Parisian wine cellars and 
rag bags cost Mabel nearly a quarter of a million dollars ! 

"The next time," she said, "I'll confine my sea trips to the 
Staten Island ferry, the best ride in the world for a nickel." 

While in a New York hotel, Mabel received a long-dis- 
tance telephone call from Mack Sennett. "Hello, Bathhouse 
John," she said. "A voice from the tomb." 

"I want you to come to work," said Sennett. 

"Is it something honest?" 

"Fve got a dandy picture, Mabel. Nobody but you can 
play it." 

"Cinderella once again, eh? What would happen, Mike, if 
you made Cinderella a tough girl?" 

"There's nothing wrong with Cinderella," said Sennett. 
"She and Camille are the best plots there are." 

"You're telling me!" said Mabel. "The best plots? They're 
the only plots Hollywood ever had. In fact, Cinderella and 
the Camille kid crossed the plains in Forty-nine. They're pio- 
neers. How's your health, Mike?" 

"It's fine. Now stop kidding and come back to work." 

"Thumbs down. I won't do any more shorts. I'm tired of 
being Cinderella. In fact, I'm tired of being Mabel Nor- 


'That's not like you, Mabel. It's work you need. Get off 
that merry-go-round and come on home." 

"I've got nine months to go on the Goldwyn contract." 

"I'll fix that, Mabel. If it was like the old days, I'd make 
you come home." 

There was a pause. "If it was like the old days, Mike, I'd 
never have left home." 

"Hello," said Mack. "Hello . . . Hello . . ." 

She had hung up. 

Mack Sennett set his boys at work on a six-reel feature 
comedy to be called Molly-O. He spoke of Mabel Normand 
as the leading woman. The aides, thinking that Goldwyn 
never would release Mabel from her contract, assumed that 
Mack's talk of her was another evidence of his "mythical 
casting" obsession. Finally, he convinced his writers that 
Mabel really was coming back to Keystone, but that it would 
be eight or nine months until she could do so. 

The problem which faced the Edendale trio of Griffith, 
Grey and Glassmyer was how to obtain the maximum loafing 
time out of the Molly-0 assignment. They put their heads 
together and finished a complete story within a week. The 
three G's were careful, however, not to inform Mack of this 
feat. They brooded, stewed, hemmed and hawed in confer- 
ence, and parcelled out the story piecemeal, or at the rate of 
one-half an idea per conference. Mack was patience itself. 


"Take your time, boys," he said. "This is for Mabel, and 
I want the best story ever written." 

The stalling tactics of the three aces gained them many 
afternoons off in the gardens. Glassmyer could inspect his 
real-estate holdings, and Grey could cement relations with all 
the booze vendors in Southern California. These gay spirits 
hated to see their God-given holiday come to an end, but the 
nine months were up and Mabel was due at the studio. They 
shook hands all round and submitted their latest pictorial 
idea of Molly-O, a climax which -they had concocted so long 
before that they came within a hair's breadth of forgetting it 

After Spokesman Griffith had erupted the final scene, em- 
phasized it, enacted it with gestures, Sennett said : 

"It's fine, boys, but I've got news. Goldwyn has wheedled 
me into letting Mabel stay with him for another six months/' 

Three faces grew long. If only they had known! Another 
six months o»f play and hurrah could have been added to 
their furlough. It was here that Mr. Glassmyer, the learned 
critic, proved his mettle. 

"This is just a rough draft, what we have given you," he 
said. "More work is to be done. Much more. More than even 
you realize. We all know that nine months is needed for the 
normal gestation of the infant human. A child is born, you 
say? Ah! But what of his infancy, his nursery days, his edu- 

"The hell with all that," said Sennett. "In this picture 


you've got the heroine, Mabel, meeting the hero, Lionel 
Barrymore. I want the picture improved, of course, but 
where do we go from here? It's a natural end." 

"Quite right," said Glassmyer. "Quite right. But why 
not go on and show the married life of Mabel and Owen 

"Barrymore," Mr. Sennett corrected him in this mythical 
casting. "Mabel and Barrymore." 

"I always get my Moores mixed," said Glassmyer. 

"Go ahead and try the marriage," said Sennett. "Do your 
best, boys." 

The married life of Mabel and "Lionel Barrymore" occu- 
pied the three rogues for another six months. That is, they 
made up the story in three days, but it required six months 
to tell it in fragments. Mabel reported for work, and when 
the picture was finished, Sennett found that he had two 
stories, Siamese twins that belonged in a sideshow rather 
than on a screen. There was a sequence at the close of the 
second story which showed a man running along the top of 
a sausage balloon a mile in the air. It had cost a lot of money 
and was the most hazardous stunt ever evolved in a movie 
without recourse to trick camera shots or double exposures. 

"We've got to keep the Zeppelin," said Mack. 

This situation resulted in the cutting-room crisis referred 
to in a previous chapter and which was saved only by Al 
McNeil's fortuitous failure to send Reel Five to the Santa 
Barbara pre-view. 


Molly-0 received great acclaim by the critics and seemed 
destined to break all records for a comedy film. But that was 
not to be. Presumably Fate does not read movie criticisms. 

Mabel Normand was now in the mid-summer of her artis- 
tic career. In the eyes of the world, she possessed nearly all 
the advantages which constitute a girl's Utopia. The public 
was sure she could choose love among ten thousand Prince 
Charmings. How was her audience to know that her heart 
had been given to a man who once had beaten rivets into 
boilers ; that it never could be given wholly to anyone else ? 
She was admired the earth over, as no real princess ever had 
been. She had wealth, great beauty and all the luxuries. Did 
not her care- free manner, her gay smile, prove that she was 
the happiest of mortals? That radiant face, with its impish 
smile, was flashed on a hundred magic screens. It never oc- 
curred to the shop girls, as they imitated her walk, her 
dress and the way she wore her hair, that in the morning 
Cinderella's pillow was wet with tears. 

Mabel's ingenuous desire to learn by reading remained 
unappeased. She sought out people who could talk impres- 
sively of an intellectual world in which she felt an alien. She 
could see through pretense, even if it was cloaked in polysyl- 
lables. None the less, a sound argument, backed by literary 
allusions, made her sensitively aware of her deficiencies. And 
deficiencies had to be remedied ! 


She cultivated the friendship of middle-aged men, whose 
minds she admired. They, in turn, were captivated by the 
elfin vivacity of her mind. There were no conceivable 
grounds for sordid guesses as to these relationships. The as- 
sociation was purely that of master and pupil. 

Among her revered professors was William Desmond 
Taylor, celebrated motion-picture director. The library of 
this forty-five-y ear-old gentleman was a refuge from the 
world's rude inanities. An urbane and intelligent man, it was 
inevitable that Taylor would gather in his circle women 
who insisted on idealizing more than his intellect. To Mabel, 
however, he was a congenial companion, a man of refine- 
ment, charm and learning. They discussed books as though 
speaking of mutual friends. Taylor was not a pedant nor an 
artistic poseur. 

In company of this thoughtful man, Mabel was not chided 
for eating peanuts while they talked of philosophy. Nor did 
Taylor scowl when she upheld the virtues of that ruddy bar- 
ber-shop tract, the Police Gazette. 

"The Police Gazette has its own peculiar charms," he said. 
"In fact, I only avoid an addiction to it through sheer will 

Among the young women who were in love with Taylor 
was Mary Miles Minter, then at the impressionable age of 
seventeen. He often pointed out to her the wide discrepancy 
in their ages, but the girl declared that they would be mar- 

Mack Sennett inspects one of his shock troops — Sally Eilers — in 
"The Good-Bye Kiss/' 


ried. Mary's mother, it was said, violently opposed this 

Taylor lived in Alvarado Court, near Westlake Park, in 
one of a group of sixteen bungalow apartments. Several 
other motion-picture personages were his neighbors, among 
them Chaplin's leading lady, Edna Purviance, and Mr. and 
Mrs. Douglas McLean. 

One February afternoon, and after the initial success of 
Molly-O, Mabel took some valuable Christmas gifts to the 
vaults of Hellman's Bank. While there she telephoned her 
maid, who said : 

"Mr. Taylor's been calling you all afternoon. Says he has 
a book for you." 

Mabel directed her chauffeur, William Davis, to make a 
stop at Alvarado Court. On her way to the Taylor residence, 
she remembered that the new Police Gazette was on the 
stands. She called to Chauffeur Davis to get her a copy, and 
also buy her a bag of peanuts. Thus surrounded by her fa- 
vorite comforts, Mabel proceeded to the home of her mentor. 

She asked Davis to wait in the limousine. "I'll be out in a 
jiffy. I'm tired and want to go home." 

Taylor's colored valet, Henry Peavy, admitted Mabel and 
looked with some dread on the bag of peanuts. She usually 
shelled them and flung the husks on the floor. 

"Mr. Taylor is telephoning," said Peavy. 

Mabel walked up and down the living room while Taylor 
was in the telephone alcove talking to his friend, Actor An- 


tonio Moreno. She cracked peanuts as she walked about the 
room. She paused to examine two photographs, one of her- 
self and the other of Mary Miles Minter. Both were auto- 
graphed with affectionate phrases. 

Taylor came from the alcove, greeted his guest warmly 
and said : "I have a book. It's an outline of German philos- 
ophy. Sit down and I'll tell you about it." 

Valet Peavy came into the room while Mabel and Taylor 
were seated on the couch. He looked with alarm at the litter 
of peanut shells on the rug, then asked if Mr. Taylor wanted 
him to remain after hours. 

"You may go home, Henry," said Taylor. Peavy left the 
house. Mabel and her friend sat for another half hour. Then 
she rose to go, and Taylor accompanied her to the limousine. 
There was a short conversation at the curb, and Mabel drove 
off. Taylor waved to her and stood, watching the car, until 
it was out of sight. He went back to his house — and to his 

Valet Peavy discovered the body in the morning, after he 
had picked up the bottles of milk and let himself inside the 
door with his key. He was amazed to see his employer 
stretched face up on the floor. He called to the neighbors. A 
doctor and Taylor's friend, Charles Eyton, sportsman and 
motion-picture executive, arrived almost simultaneously. 

"Heart failure," said the doctor, with professional finality. 

Eyton went upstairs, and, according to Detective Lieuten- 
ant Edward C. King of the District Attorney's office, took 


possession of a sheaf of Taylor's correspondence. What that 
correspondence contained, no one ever seemed to know. 

The physician who had pronounced Taylor dead from 
heart failure left the body in position and summoned the 
coroner. That official arrived, rolled the body over, and saw 
a pool of blood. He called the police. 

"Murder," said Detective Lieutenant Tom Ziegler. "Call 
the Homicide Squad." 

The detectives found that a bullet had entered Taylor's 
back from the belt-line at the right side. They noted a pecu- 
liarity, in that the bullet hole in Taylor's coat did not coincide 
with the rent made in his vest. The hole in the coat was lower 
by some inches than that in the waistcoat. Lieutenant King's 
theory was that Taylor was seated at his desk shortly after 
Miss Normand had left, that he was bent over his check 
book, which position lifted his coat-tail more than it would 
the rear of his vest. 

The McLeans, who lived next door to Taylor, recalled 
having heard a shot which fixed the time at about ten min- 
utes after Mabel Normand's departure. Mrs. McLean had 
gone to her door and looked toward the Taylor bungalow. 
She had seen a figure muffled in an overcoat and with a plaid 
cap pulled down over his or her eyes. That person was 
coming from Taylor's rear door. The clothing worn by the 
stranger was that of a man, but Mrs. McLean did not think 
the walk or the physique of the person was of a manly sort. 

An intimate garment, embroidered with the initials of a 


famous star — not Mabel Normand — was found in a closet 
of Taylor's house. There also were a pair of mules, with 
some love notes tucked in the toe of one mule. The hand- 
writing and the initials were said to be those of an actress. 
Three long blonde hairs were discovered beneath the collar 
of the coat in which Taylor had met his death. All these 
pieces of purported evidence either disappeared or were filed 
away by official hands. There was scandal at every turn. 

Hollywood trembled. Only a year before the Taylor slay- 
ing, the movie colony had staggered under the manslaughter 
charge brought against Fatty Arbuckle. He had been held 
in connection with the accidental death of Virginia Rappe 
in a San Francisco hotel. It was to take years and three 
criminal trials to clear Arbuckle officially of the charge. The 
damage was irreparable. The man was definitely innocent, 
and yet the public would never reverse the doom it had 
passed in its hysterical hate upon a victim of injustice. 

The Taylor mystery received world-wide publicity. Fore- 
most among the names that entered the investigation were 
those of Mabel Normand and Mary Miles Minter. They 
were grilled by detectives; they were harassed and driven 
from pillar to post. For years they were to suffer periodic 
revivals of the scandal. 

A public which had lifted both these girls to the heights 
now kicked the pedestals from under their idols' feet. It 
mattered not that some of the world's best detectives and 
a host of officials agreed that neither Mabel nor Mary 


could have committed, or even witnessed, the crime. The 
habitual witch-burners came screaming into the public 
squares to rant against the sins of movieland. Down with 
the Arbuckles and the Normands! All Hollywood actors 
belonged in jail or on gallows' platforms. 

For the dead Taylor there was no sympathy. He was set 
down in post-mortem diatribes as a rake and a betrayer of 

And now the clubs and cliques, the purists and the bigots 
asked that Mabel be banned from the movie studios and 
her pictures barred. Mabel was bewildered by this sudden, 
roaring turn of the tide. The snarls of a public which had 
professed to love her beat her to the ground. She turned to 
Mack Sennett in panic, and found him ready to face any 
crisis at her side. Perhaps he did not have the intellectual 
attributes of a Taylor, but he had something more, the ada- 
mant strength of a man. 

Sennett had to withdraw Molly-0 from the screen. When 
Mabel learned that he had suffered a loss of more than a 
half million dollars by this scandal, and that he still wanted 
her as his star, she knew that Mack's staunchness obliterated 
all previous indiscretions. 

"This thing will blow over," Mack said. "They can't 
crucify an innocent girl." 

The "thing" did not blow over, and Mabel's career needed 
but one more scandalous stroke to complete her ruin, finally 
and irrevocably. 


This second ruthless bolt struck one New Year's Eve, 
after Mabel's physician had ordered her to report at the 
hospital for an operation for appendicitis. 

"Who ever heard of appendicitis on New Year's Eve?" 
she asked, with something of her old-time spirit. "Not I. 
Tonight I'll see the old year out. They can have my appendix 

She went directly to the home of Edna Purviance. Cort- 
land Dines, a young Denver millionaire, also joined in the 
New Year celebration. The girls left the living room to go to 
another part of the house. They heard a shot. They ran back 
to the living room to find Dines on the floor, blood pouring 
from a bullet wound. Mabel's chauffeur, Horace A. Greer, 
stood beside the fallen Dines, a pistol in his hand. Dines 
recovered and Greer was released, when no charge was 

A lady is fortunate, indeed, if she can explain one scan- 
dal. The woman never lived who was resourceful enough to 
explain two. Greer's shot was a signal to release again the 
pent-up fury of the world on Mabel Normand's head. Shat- 
tered emotionally, violently ill physically, her career finished, 
she could not summon the strength for resistance. Even as 
she went to the hospital, she had to suffer the added hu- 
miliation of being accused of submitting to a major surgical 
operation in order to avoid official questioning. Before she 
found the sweet oblivion of anesthesia, she turned to the 
nurse and said : "I sigh and surrender." 

Chapter 21 


MACK SENNETTS professional theory that tragedy 
had to be the basis of all true comedy now was 
finding new and ironical corroboration in life. What had 
befallen Mabel Normand had no comic aspect. It left him 
stunned by its incomprehensible causes and bewildered by 
its inescapable consequences. Life, he felt, had no right to 
deal such treacherous blows. There was only one way to 
meet these thrusts from the dark. A fierce energy might 
counter the crazy fusilade. 

Whatever the soothing effect on Sennett of these new ex- 
cesses of energy, the mirth-hungry world enjoyed the hilari- 
ous outpourings of his sorrow. Comedy followed comedy 
with demoniac rapidity. Twenty companies of clowns were 



constantly engaged in the execution of Mack's dynamic fool- 
eries. Slap-stick reached its zenith. He made stars almost as 
readily as he made new comedies. His competitors, armed 
with great financial resources and little else, tried to buy 
what Sennett had created. They tempted his stars with fabu- 
lous offers. There were defections. Sennett doggedly went 
ahead, undismayed, and fashioned other screen celebrities. 
He was too proud to buy his actors ready-made and too in- 
dependent to bribe them to stay. 

Desertion from Keystone was an act of treachery in Sen- 
nett's eyes. Even when he boasted that he would stand in no 
one's way, a change of allegiance by his actors rankled in the 
King's bosom. He was a tenacious and forthright hater. 
Loyalty, however, won from him a never-failing friendship 
and affection. 

Even the most trivial evidences of ingratitude grew into 
voluminous entries in Sennett's filing cabinet of grievances. 
It was his practice to send his comedies to several eleemosy- 
nary retreats once each week. He took great pride in letting 
inmates of poorhouses, asylums and other charitable insti- 
tutions see his comedies free and before the general public 
was allowed to view his product for money. 

He was astounded one day to receive a delegation of 
quince-faced citizens. They acknowledged his greeting to 
Edendale in a curiously reserved manner. The spokesman — 
a born censor — began : "Mr. Sennett, we are very much dis- 


tressed. Your actors cannot continue to use reprehensible 
words while before the camera." 

Mr. Sennett was puzzled. "Words? In a movie? I never 
heard of such a thing." 

"Yes, words, Mr. Sennett. And such offensive words!" 

"I don't understand." 

"Oh, yes, Mr. Sennett. They curse and say the vilest 

"Well, even if they did, I don't see how that would hurt 
anybody," Sennett said. "How do you know they curse?" 

The spokesman replied : "A group of inmates of our Deaf 
and Dumb Institute were shocked terribly when they read the 
lips of your actors." 

"All right. That's the last picture you get," said Mack. 
"That's one way of keeping 'em pure." 

The spokesman smiled wanly. "Oh, no, my good Mr. Sen- 
nett. By no means! That doesn't settle it. You must guar- 
antee that your actors refrain from indecent language. We 
have power, Mr. Sennett. Connections all over the country. 
We can make it very uncomfortable for you. Other deaf and 
dumb people must not be demoralized." 

"Get out and stay out," Sennett exploded. 

Mack was a lavish patron of the Los Angeles Athletic 
Club, where he resided. He was a one-man entertainment 
committee. He enlisted his stars to keep his fellow members 
amused. His films were always available free of charge for 


his comrades in athletics. No smoker was complete without 
the Sennett directorial touch. He luxuriated in conspicuous 

Once he decided that his services to the club deserved a 
little recognition. Foregoing a consultation with the house 
manager, Mack set up a motion-picture camera in his room 
and pointed it out the window. He trained the lens on the 
roof of a building across the street, where a mob of Sennett 
jesters were poised to begin one of the famous Keystone 
chases. Headed by the house manager, a delegation of cor- 
pulent athletes wedged their way through Sennett's door and 
peremptorily bade him to remove the instrument of his pro- 

"It's against the house rules," their standard bearer said. 
"Take that camera elsewhere!" 

"I'll take myself, too," the club's benefactor announced. 
He leaned out the window and waved dismissal to his tatter- 
demalion horde. 

The King of Comedy effected a dignified exit, mumbling : 

"You'll live to regret this." 

Not only did he settle his accounts and resign from the 
club, but he issued an ultimatum to all his actors, forbidding 
them, upon penalty of instant dismissal, to patronize this 
temple which housed both kinds of horizontal bars. To avoid 
temptation, he recommended to his employes that they make 
a wide detour when in the neighborhood of this pension 
for world-weary gymnasts. 


Among Sennett's rising young directors was the ex- 
vaudeville actor, Chuck Reisner. This nimble fellow had ac- 
quired a reputation for fecundity in gags. The source of his 
happy inspirations was the five-and-ten-cent store. Reisner 
would stand in front of this bazaar each Monday when the 
window-dresser changed the display. Chuck would have a 
note-book and pencil in his hands and jot down the names 
of all the articles. Then he would ask himself : " What can 
be done with a knife? With a spool of thread? A fire shovel ? 
Napkins? Plates? Dolls? Candy ?" And so on, endlessly. 
After figuring out the things which could be accomplished 
with these props, Reisner filed his memoranda in drawers 
labeled: "Kitchen," "Bathroom," "Bedroom," "Farm," etc. 
Sennett rewarded this human gag-encyclopedia with a dual 
role in a picture, as actor and assistant director. Chuck was 
thus occupied when Mack beat an indignant retreat from the 
dumb-bell arsenal, the Los Angeles Athletic Club. He was 
blissfully unaware of the King's command. 

At the next week's smoker Sennett attended, as police- 
man, to make sure that the order of boycott was being 
obeyed. He frowned when he saw Reisner seated at the ring- 
side as timekeeper for the bouts. He was annoyed further 
when the crowd shouted for Chuck to oblige with a song and 

Reisner was roundly applauded as he concluded his vaude- 
ville turn. But before he could respond with an encore, he 
felt Sennett's restraining hand. 


"You're fired," said Mack. 

Deeply mystified, Reisner went home and drank beer for 
two days. His director found him there and asked: "Why 
didn't you show up for work?" 

"I was fired," Reisner said. 

"By whom?" 

"By Sennett." 

"That's funny. He sent me to get you." 

The next day Sennett apologized to Reisner. In fact, he 
was almost too profuse, an indication that the conclusion of 
a picture depended on Chuck's presence. Mack remained on 
the set while Reisner was being "shot." 

Reisner afterward became one of the ten most successful 
directors in Hollywood. 

The sedentary environment of an athletic club having 
palled on him, Sennett now elected to shoulder the back- 
bending hazards of a home-owner. He moved into a large 
structure which became known as the "Westmoreland Man- 
sion." The name was acquired from the suburb over which 
it towered. It had a great marble staircase, twenty-one rooms 
and almost as many baths as a Roman censor's villa. There 
was a private projection room where Sennett and his aides 
looked at comedies after dinner. When the room was dark- 
ened, some of the gentlemen would indulge in secret drink- 
ing. This covert nipping, not to mention the liquids the boys 
had imbibed openly during the meal, encouraged post- 


prandial stupors. When such victims could no longer answer 
Sennett's questions, he would have the lights turned on and 
declare the night's work at an end. He thought it a great 
joke that he could hold his liquor better than any of his 
doughty crew. And, merely to keep the record straight, Sen- 
nett could drink without succumbing to those disastrous con- 
sequences which take the form of torpor on the one hand 
or rowdy and insulting behavior on the other. Bacchus and 
Sennett were on amiable terms. The grape only encouraged 
his nostalgia for operatic days, and he would render a vocal 
solo. Usually his choice of lyrics fell upon that laudable 
theme which declares that "love comes but once, and then 
too late." 

There was an army of butlers in the Westmoreland Man- 
sion. They were stirrer than any officiers de maison to be 
found on Chicago's Gold Coast. One of them wore corsets. 
The others had no need of spinal fortification. They were 
born stiff. It was Johnny Grey's opinion that they had been 
dead for years, and were capitalizing upon their rigor mortis. 

With butlers and serving men of this type, Sennett's 
guests had to live up to a high social standard. They appeared 
in formal dress and forewent the conventional amenities of 
exchanging prurient stories — unless, of course, the tales in- 
volved actors. A Hollywood raconteur would forfeit his jeal- 
ously guarded prestige were he to tell a pure story about a 
Thespian. Nobody would believe him. 

Before long, the pseudo-Bourbon proprieties in this Pull- 


man-car decor began to pall. Sennett and his guests yearned 
for the good old days of proletarian pleasures. Although the 
evenings began with heavy-handed formality, a curfew rang 
at eleven o'clock for the confirmed society addicts. There- 
after, the elfin Keystone spirit emerged through the boiled 
shirt-fronts. Inhibitions were drowned in the finger bowls. 
Glistening Haviland china tempted the dexterous jongleurs. 
The air was filled with costly missiles. Acrobatic gentlemen 
used brocaded sofas as spring boards. Oriental rugs served 
instead of sawdust. Sennett laughed uproariously at his but- 
lers' chagrin. Personally, he supervised the grand finale of 
the evening — a Keystone chase through his own domicile. In 
his best paternal manner, he encouraged these home-brewed 
charades. Besides, a useful gag or two was often sired under 
his own roof. 

With all his money, his Westmoreland Mansion, his in- 
flexible butlers and hybrid social life, Mack had an irresisti- 
ble urge to return to the soil. Every time he passed an or- 
chard or farm, he would hold forth on the enervating con- 
sequences of luxurious existence. A Rousseau-like vision of 
the glories of the life bucolic possessed him. 

An opportunity to return conveniently to Mother Earth 
presented itself. He went for a walk with his gag-men one 
Spring day. They ascended the hill to the back lot, where 
the sky-line chases were made. The summit dominated the 


Sennett acres. As he stood on the wind-swept crest, he re- 
marked : 

''Gee, that looks pretty down there. Who does it belong 

"It's part of your property," said Gag-man Griffith. 

"Is that so?" asked Sennett. "Well, we ought to do some- 
thing with it." 

"I always abhorred waste," said Lieutenant Grey, his 
tongue in his cheek. 

"You're right," said Sennett. "I'm against waste too." 

"If you raised vegetables on it . . ." 

Mack interrupted. "That's it! Vegetables." 

The next day some Chinese farmers were summoned, one 
of whom knew how to plough. "Go ahead and plough," said 
Sennett, "and plant all kinds of vegetables." 

Three months later a Chinese agriculturist reported at 
Sennett's Tower. "We got vegetables. Plenty vegetables. All 

Mack again climbed the hill, his heart pounding with pas- 
toral bliss. He instructed his Oriental husbandmen to gather 
in the sheaves and pods. On his return to the Tower, Mack 
took command and began to issue orders. He hired an Italian 
greengrocer. He commissioned his carpenters to build vege- 
table stalls. His market was situated in full view of the 
Tower, so that Mack could see who — if anyone — bought 
provender there. 


When the vegetables went begging for customers, Mack 
used them as missiles in comedy films. 

So pleased was he with his new venture — a farm on a 
studio lot — that Mack had his mother send maple syrup 
from Canada. Johnny Grey's home had been in New Hamp- 
shire, a fact which automatically qualified him as an expert 
on maple-tree products. Each time a consignment of syrup 
arrived at the Edendale studio, Mack would call for Grey. 

"Here's a batch, Johnny," he would say. "Taste it and 
we'll see what we ought to charge." 

On one occasion Sennett and Johnny were sampling a new 
shipment of syrup. Both connoisseurs sang its virtues in a 
pitch that led Sennett to regret charging so little for such 
excellent sap. He raised the price from $3 to $5 a gallon. 
His employes refused to pay the revised tariff. Farmer Mack 
was very sad. 

Encouraged by his agrarian venture and disregarding the 
sluggish market for his products, Squire Sennett decided 
to expand. He built poultry sheds and began to raise turkeys 
and chickens. Neighbors looked upon the enterprise as a 
boon. They invaded his pens, made off with scores of fowl 
and indulged in chicken every night, instead of once a week. 
Turkey graced their tables once a month instead of on 
Thanksgiving Day only. 

One evening Sennett's boys were having dinner at the 
Westmoreland Mansion. The host beamed as three of his 
butlers brought in a huge roast turkey. 

Teddy signs on the dotted line, agreeing "to render his services 

in a conscientious, artistic and efficient manner and to the best 

of his ability." 


"From my farm, boys," he said, smirking like a prize- 
winning rancher at a fair. "Not everybody has turkeys like 

"No," said Grey. "Not more than fifty of your neigh- 

"What do you mean?" demanded the host. 

"Simply that I've figured out how many turkeys you lost 
last month. Five hundred were stolen, and if they were 
worth, let us say, a dollar each, the one we're eating tonight 
cost you somewhere around $501." 

Mr. Sennett lost his appetite. "I'll inquire into tlmt to- 

Next day Sennett interviewed one of his farm bailiffs, a 
skinny Swede. Before Mack could go into the problem of 
turkey-snatching, the Swede said he wanted the day off. 

"Just why," Sennett asked, "do you have to go away in 
the middle of the morning, when everything is growing?" 

The man said : "My wife is having a baby at the hospital." 

Sennett was fond of children and very sympathetic to 
incipient parents. "You go right away, and I hope she 
doesn't have too much pain." 

The Swedish tiller of the soil was gone three hours. When 
he returned, he looked downcast. Sennett met him behind a 
turkey house and asked: "Well, my boy, how did she go?" 

The man muttered something in Swedish and scowled. 
Sennett asked: "I said, how is your wife?" 

"I guess she bane all right," said the Nordic yeoman. 


"Guess?" said Sennett. "Don't you know?" 

"Yeah. I know. I know plenty much." 

"What you sore about? Was it only a girl?" 

"I don't know if she bane girl." 

Mr. Sennett was confused. "You mean you don't know 
its sex? I mean is it a boy or a girl?" 

The fellow said : "It bane a Yap !" 

"A Jap? What you talking about?" 

"I bane get diworce right away. My wife born a big funny 
Yap and I tank I know de fadder." 

Investigation showed that the child was a Mongoloid, but 
no scientist could convince the man that his spouse had not 
been dangerously playful with some unidentified Nipponese. 

Sennett had a rather gay horse, "General Pershing." He 
liked to ride Pershing through his baronial acres. One day 
the General saw a tall fence and, without asking permission, 
had a try at it. Caught unawares, Sennett was thrown from 
the saddle and fractured his shoulder. Before going to be 
splinted, Mack sold the impetuous steed. 

For a month or so it was feared that Sennett might not 
be able to use his left arm again. When the bone had knit, 
his physician recommended golf. 

"What!" Mack roared. "Me take up a silly game like 
that? How could I ever explain it to my gag-men?" 

None the less, he began to play golf, shot a good game 
and became enamoured of the sport. 


One morning he came from the links to find a commo- 
tion at his vegetable market. His Italian vendor was scream- 
ing. Sennett, clad in plus fours and hob-nail shoes, ran to 
the stands to find a cub bear wrecking the vegetable bins. 
This animal had been appearing in a picture on a neighboring 
stage, had smelled Sennett's maple syrup and had broken 

Sennett charged the bear and booted it in the rump with 
a hobnail brogan. The terrorized bear retreated. The Italian, 
thinking it was chasing him, also began to run. Sennett ac- 
cepted both their resignations and began to lose faith in his 
farming projects. His workmen crated what chickens the 
neighbors had graciously spared and stacked the cackling 
boxes near one of the stages. Mack leaned on one of the 
crates while a picture was in progress. The whole pyramid 
toppled and crashed to the floor. The chickens were released 
and stampeded across the stage. Audiences rollicked with 
laughter when this unpremeditated scene was shown. Per- 
spicacious critics marvelled at Sennett's directorial skill in 
making chickens act as if they were really running for their 

For some time after his farm and chicken ranch had 
been liquidated, Sennett roamed the deserted furrows and 
pens. He was thus wandering one day when he came upon 
Johnny Grey and Ray Griffith. They had been playing truant 
and had not anticipated this meeting with the master. 


When Sennett saw two of his gag-men among the potato 
hills, he suspected them at once of shirking. He glowered and 
asked: "Did you get anywhere on that Lillian Gish idea?" 

In terms of his "mythical casting," Sennett's "Lillian 
Gish" was Louise Fazenda. Although the two fugitives from 
Sennett's concentration camp had not got anywhere on any- 
thing, Grey said, as casually as he could: "Well, Griffith's 
got a pretty good idea." 

This remark threw the onus onto Griffith, who said : "Sup- 
pose you tell it as you see it in your mind's eye, Johnny?" 

Johnny had pardonable misgivings. "I don't know. I 
don't think I could do justice to the part where the guy 
comes to paint the barn and sleeps with the farmer's daugh- 
ter. I like the way you act out the girl's part." 

"I appreciate that," Griffith replied, "but I don't want 
Mr. Sennett to think I deserve all the credit. For instance, 
where the villain, Mr. James Finlayson, has a mortgage on 
the farmer's house, you had a splendid title for the entrance." 

"He comes into the picture riding a draft horse," Grey 
took up the cue. "The title, Mr. Sennett, as I recall it, was : 
'He had a dash of sporting blood.' " 

"That's fine," said Sennett. "A farm story, eh?" 

Mr. Griffith beamed. "The farmer wants his daughter to 
marry Finlayson to square the mortgage. You go on with 
the rest of it, Johnny." 

"Just a, minute," said Sennett. "Let's have the daughter 
not want to marry Finlayson." 


"Naturally," said Griffith. 'That's it." 

"O.K.," said Sennett. "Lillian Gish tells the heavy she is 
a good girl and that the artist who painted the barn ruined 
her. Let's see. I've got them mixed. Anyway, we want to 
start with a great gag." 

"Griffith has a dandy bit of business to open the first 
sequence," said Grey slyly. 

"It opens on the farm," said Griffith, "with Charlie Mur- 
ray ploughing." 

"Is that your idea of a gag?" asked Sennett reprovingly. 

"Louise Fazenda, nee Lillian Gish," said Grey, "is sew- 

"You mean sowing corn?" asked Sennett. 

This was a providential cue. Mr. Griffith leaped at it. 
"Exactly. She's sowing corn." 

Mr. Sennett snapped his fingers. "Come on with the gag." 

Mr. Griffith was desperate but resourceful. "As she sows 
the corn, a duck follows after her and eats the corn!' 

The King of Comedy nodded. "Now we're getting some- 

Griffith passed the comedy ball to Grey. "Johnny has 
worked out a great plot point here. Go ahead, Johnny." 

Johnny cleared his throat. "I have a title here. Lillian Gish 
gets a letter : 'Dear Miss Glutz : This is to inform you that 
you have inherited your late uncle's estate. He was last seen 
walking down a railroad track with a keg of powder, light- 
ing his pipe.' " 


"How do we clear the way for Finlayson to marry Gish?" 
asked Sennett. 

Grey said : "Griffith has taken care of all that." 

"Well?" said Sennett, turning to Griffith. 

"After our heroine tells Finlayson that the barn painter 
had beclouded her good name, they see a picture in the 
newspaper. It is a photograph of the artist, whose name is 
Mr. Quillan. He is about to be married to a young girl in 
the wicked city." 

"I see," said Sennett. "The farmer, his daughter and Mr. 
Finlayson go to the city to make the villain do the right 
thing by Lillian Gish." 

"That's it," said Grey, "all but the finish, which Griffith 
has doped out." 

"Never mind that," said Sennett. "The finish is a chase." 

From this conference among the weeds of Sennett's once 
lush fields came the comedy, Down on the Farm. It was a 
phenomenal box-office success and paid for any losses sus- 
tained by the procrastinations of the gag-men, the thieving 
of neighbors, the failure of Keystone actors to patronize the 
vegetable stalls and the depredations of the syrup-hunting 

Sennett and his cutter, Al McNeil, were having a bath 
when a boy delivered review clippings concerning Down on 
the Farm. Sennett dried himself hurriedly and looked at the 
notices. An enthusiastic critic wrote : 


"Once again the inimitable Mack Sennett has given us an 
hour of hilarity and escape from the slough of despond." 

"Abdul!" Sennett roared. "Go out and borrow a dic- 

"Where?" asked Abdul. 

"From the public school down the road. Tell 'em we'll 
return it in a few minutes." 

When Abdul delivered the heavy tome to the bath-office, 
Sennett was amazed. "Gee, look what Abdul brought. It's 
good you know how to wrestle." Then he commanded 
McNeil : "Get busy and look up that critic's words, es- 
pecially 'slough' and 'despond.' It may be a knock." 

Mr. McNeil used the rim of the tub to support the lexi- 
con. It slipped and fell into the water. McNeil dived after it, 
but Sennett called out: "Let it lay, McNeil. We're doing 
pretty well without all those high-falutin' words. We just 
simply weren't meant to know 'em. Abdul, some beer !" 

Chapter 22 


NOAH WEBSTER'S involuntary bath in Mack Sen- 
net's tub was a portent. His saturated verbosities 
were to be scattered to the four commercial winds. A public 
relations counsel, the first of a tribe of medicine men to 
conjure seductive words for Keystone ballyhoo, arrived at 
Edendale. Never blessed with the Te Deums of press agents 
and advertising psalm singers, Mack none the less had suc- 
ceeded in maintaining an adequate liaison with his public. 
At length he was stimulated by the aphrodisiac of over- 

American industrialists had never been coy about them- 
selves or their products. Their hitherto most extravagant 
claims were piddling when compared to the deluge loosed 



by a school of war-trained propagandists. To compete suc- 
cessfully in this tournament of stentorian hurrahs, a mer- 
chant could not hope to sell a lead pencil or even a barrow 
of manure without waving journalistic banners or beating 
literary drums. 

A peculiar manifestation of this commercial hyperbole 
was that owners of widely advertised products at once began 
to fancy themselves as authorities in all branches of human 
endeavor. A delirium of self-importance impelled them to 
besiege the public prints with pontificial solutions to moral, 
political, economic and aesthetic problems. To facilitate the 
mass production of wisdom's pearls, these captains of in- 
dustry hired personal press agents, as well as advertising 
engineers. Nimble hacks prepared canned statements and 
aggressive blurbs. They also served as ghost-writers of in- 
terviews attributed to their omniscient bosses. 

Movie producers became willing addicts to the opium of 
ballyhoo. They drew lustily at the pipe and believed every 
euphemistic phrase coined by their glib hirelings. They 
grew dizzy with synthetic grandeur. 

Sennett believed everything he read in the newspapers. 
Had he not gleaned from this font of information that the 
boys he always had called by their first names now were 
Platos, Alexanders, Dantes and Cellinis? No one was more 
dumbfounded than he to learn that his once inarticulate 
colleagues were wittier than Voltaire, shrewder than Dis- 


raeli, mightier than Moses and more resourceful than God. 
Their audacity stopped at the name of Munchausen. 

Awed by the profundities of his renovated peers, Sennett 
wondered if he, too, could not use a press agent. He hesi- 
tated at first to supplement his already successful technique 
with new methods. When da Vinci Griffith's press depart- 
ment made the modest claim that Intolerance was the 
"epochal, soul-edifying sun play of the ages," Sennett ap- 
plied to his gag-men for an emergency slogan. He saw the 
futility of this mandate when Johnny Grey suggested the 
shibboleth : "Our comedies are not to be laughed at !" Mack 
turned to the Fourth Estate and hired Harry Carr, after- 
ward a distinguished columnist of the Los Angeles Times. 

The Carr contract is regarded, even at this late day, as 
a classic document of cinematic peonage. Embodied in the 
bond were precautionary clauses such as the following: 

"No excuse from work, duties or attendance at the studio 
or on location or other place as required shall be good or 
sufficient, except it be in writing, signed by an authorized 
agent of the employer. In no event shall a written excuse 
be good for an absence of more than one day. Inclement 
weather shall be no excuse for non-attendance hereunder." 

History will record that Pamphleteer Carr must assume 
full moral responsibility for the first institutional brochure 
published in a motion-picture studio. The Sennett Weekly, 
a Zeitung devoted to all the news that's fit to print about 


bathing beauties, Keystone Cops and prostrate comedians, 
appeared under his adroit editorial supervision. 

Professor Carr's successor to the Chair of Ballyhoo at 
Custard College was the seraphic and learned Walter An- 
thony. Like Glassmyer, Anthony was a critic. He also had 
served an apprenticeship as a police reporter. At the moment 
when Dean Sennett sought to draft him for the Edendale 
faculty, Anthony was drama reviewer on the staff of the 
San Francisco Chronicle. 

This Brander Matthews of the Golden Gate looked with 
scorn upon the motion-picture industry. It was beneath his 
dignity even to attend an exhibition of the flickering tapes ; 
nor did his newspaper accord free space to the cinema. 

Sennett had gone to San Francisco in 191 8 to open the 
new Tivoli Theater with Yankee Doodle in Berlin. He was 
accompanied by twenty of his famous bathing beauties — 
the first personal-appearance tour of any motion-picture 

Eph Asher (now an executive with Universal) was man- 
ager for the Turner-Dahnken chain. The Tivoli was the 
key-theater of the circuit. Asher visited the Chronicle and 
found Critic Anthony pruning phrases concerning Shake- 
speare's misfortune in having Robert Mantell assault the 
beauties of iambic pentameter. 

"I've brought you a big ad," said Asher. "Would you 
please come down and interview Mack Sennett?" 


"Who is he?" asked the William Winter of the Pacific. 

When Asher gave a thumb-nail sketch of Sennett's life 
and labors, Anthony said: "I still don't know who he is, 
and I'll not interview him." 

The business office of the newspaper, however, decided it 
would do their critic no permanent injury if he were to 
converse with the advertiser. Anthony and Asher found 
Sennett in front of the theater, his thumbs hooked in the 
armholes of his vest. Mack wasn't accustomed to being 
interviewed. He expected Anthony to do most of the talk- 
ing while he teetered on his toes and spat in the gutter. 
After an uncomfortable ten minutes, the men went to a bar. 
An angel of silence hovered over them. 

Finally, Anthony returned to his office, puzzled as to 
what could be done about the interview. Press time was at 
hand. Anthony began to improvise. He wrote about bath- 
ing beauties, Western sunshine, the virtue of California's 
women, and of their surpassing beauty. Unable to bear the 
stigma of implied deference to the movies, Anthony signed 
the piece: "By Mack Sennett." He sent it to the linotype 
machine and slunk home to Mrs. Anthony. 

"I can't risk another contact with the nickelodeons," he 
said. "The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has offered me a job, 
so let us flee, my dear. I'm a marked man." 

While Mr. Anthony was engaged in a chore performed 
only once by a journalist during his entire tenure of office 
in an editorial room — the cleaning out of his desk — an 


excited Mr. Asher called at the Chronicle. He revealed that 
Sennett wanted the critic to become Keystone's publicity 

"That story of yours," said Asher, "bowled him over. It 
was a masterpiece! We've got a two weeks' tour with the 
bathing beauties. Come on. The world is ours !" 

Anthony was turning his desk drawers upside down. 
Bales of letters, programs, a desiccated apple core, an old 
shirt and a whiskey glass fell to the floor. He salvaged the 
glass and looked mournfully at one of the letters which lay 
on top of the compromising mound. 

"I never did get around to answering that letter," he said. 
"From an actor, too." He sighed. "Oh, well, it's too late, I 
presume. The poor chap died a year ago." He sniffed at his 
glass and then shook his head. "No, Mr. Asher, I'm not 
interested in Sennett, in bathing girls or in the cinema. 
I'm on my way to the dignified preserves of the Post- 
Intelligencer, where there is no open season on critics. Hail 
and farewell." 

Sennett's importunate telegrams to Seattle failed to per- 
suade Anthony. He relegated them to desk drawers. The 
tenacious Sennett ascertained Anthony's home address and 
began to telegraph him there. Mrs. Anthony grew tired of 
answering the door, only to find a Western Union cherub. 
She said to her husband : 

"Why don't you name a price you know this Sennett 
person won't accept, and have it off our minds?" 


It was eight o'clock when Mr. Anthony despatched a tele- 
gram in which he demanded an amount four times the salary 
of the managing editor of the Post-Intelligencer, and ten 
times the critic's stipend. At ten o'clock a message arrived 
from Edendale : "When can you come?" 

Mr. and Mrs. Anthony were aghast. Mr. Anthony sank 
to the couch. The golden blackjack of the cinema had felled 
another stalwart artist. 

Anthony went to Edendale with an admirable promise 
to himself : "I'll get a year's treasure, save all I can, then 
settle down to some serious writing." Pegasus whinnied 
knowingly. He had heard that sort of idealistic lunacy from 
so many of his well-intentioned jockeys. On his return 
flights from the motion-picture Parnassus he would always 
be a riderless horse. 

After Anthony had signed a year's contract, he learned to 
his amazement that Sennett wanted "one of those sunshine 
and health" stories every day. Anthony, alas, never could 
repeat the dithyramb he had composed in the name of Sen- 
nett. His inability to reproduce the paean on demand in- 
curred his employer's misgivings. The King of Comedy 
could not understand why his new laureate should s,o quickly 
exhaust his afflatus. 

A flowery job awaited the new publicity chief when 
Sennett began to invest in theatrical property. Mack had 
become dissatisfied with the manner in which his feature 


comedies were being presented. He decided he would set an 
example for exhibitors. He leased the Woodley Theater, an 
odeon in South Broadway, near Ninth street, and opposite 
the movie house of Thomas L. Talley, the ex-cowpuncher, 
Los Angeles' first motion-picture exhibitor. 

Sennett stripped the Woodley interior and remodeled it 
at the cost of thousands of dollars. Then he bought the 
Woodley outright, tore it down and built a motion-picture 
house according to his own ideas. He spent $350,000 on this 
project and called his palace the Mission Theater. It was 
opened with Douglas Fairbanks' The Mark of Zorro. The 
Mission was regarded as the finest theater of its kind in the 
country. Sennett meticulously supervised the choice of all 
attractions which played there. 

One of the pictures submitted for his approval was 
Metro's costly production of Vicente Blasco Ibanez's The 
Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. While viewing the 
amorous histrionics of Rudolph Valentino, Mr. Sennett fell 
asleep. On awakening, he wasn't sure that he wanted to lend 
his screen to a war play. Such film fare had been a drug 
on the market. As a matter of fact, production of martial 
drama had jeopardized the financial resources of the very 
company which now was asking Sennett to show the Ibanez 

When Sennett's house manager, Harry David, Gag-man 
Johnny Grey and Press Agent Anthony enthused over the 
picture and predicted stardom for Valentino, Sennett 


■l ■- 























He '■ MUM- Mi I ■■-•Jl— 



\1 v! ! 


Edendale, tJie citadel of slap-stick. In the rear can be seen dimly the 
trellis ed fields of Sennet? s farm. To the left, over the name "Mack" 
is the tower from which the King scanned his empire. The designation 
on the roof, "Mack Sennett Studios," marks the first concrete enclosed 
stage built in Hollywood. The sign "Heart Balm" was a waste of sign- 
painting ingenuity, for it had to be changed to "The Crossroads of 

New York." 


yielded. He was astounded when the public crowded his 
playhouse during the entire run of the Ibanez film. He sent 
for Anthony, who arrived at the Tower just as Abdul was 
finishing the master's massage. Sennett said: 

"I want to ask you a question. You're pretty smart." 

From Sennett's tone, Anthony judged that he didn't mean 
the compliment. "What is it, Mr. Sennett?" 

"What's the reason for the success of The Four Horse- 
men of the Whatsis?" 

"In the first place, Mr. Sennett, it has a theme." 

"Theme? What's that?" 

The critic now was on his home grounds and at bat with 
the bases full. "A theme is what the play is about. The 
theme of Ibsen's The Doll's House is woman's right to 
freedom. The theme of King Lear is filial ingratitude. The 
theme of Cinderella is . . ." 

The King raised his hand. "I get you." 

Next day, Johnny Grey, Glassmyer and Ray Griffith 
threatened Anthony with lynching. 

"You're the responsible guy," said Grey. "God Almighty ! 
I'm about to add the mark of Cain to my hitherto unblem- 
ished brow." 

"What's up?" asked Anthony. 

Griffith replied in behalf of his colleagues. "This morning 
we went in to recite our new two-reel comedy to the Old 
Man. We felt we had done a good job. I acted it out in my 
best form and finished — to utter silence. Sennett spat in 


his sawdust box and said: Tt won't do.' Glassmyer asked: 
'Why won't it do?' and Sennett said: 'It's got no theme. 
And from now on, you boys don't put out a single story 
without a theme !' " 

Sennett's principal gag-men, Griffith, Grey and Glass- 
myer, eventually voted Anthony a member of their group. 
He was a convivial spirit and a valuable ally in an elaborate 
espionage system designed to keep them informed of the 
boss's moods and movements. A daily inspection of Mack's 
mail had been of infinite help in the revelation of his busi- 
ness secrets, but the snooping literati wished to learn more, 
to pry more deeply into the King's personal affairs, par- 
ticularly his love life. He had become reticent in that re- 
gard, following Mabel Normand's departure from Key- 
stone. It was to the best interests of the gag-men and their 
new ally, Anthony, to know of Sennett's emotional status, 
if they were to match their own behavior with his varying 

At last they hit upon a brilliant scheme. They examined 
the requisition papers in the business office. Whenever the 
spies saw a dozen American Beauty roses accounted for in 
the auditor's memoranda, they noted the address to which 
the posies had been sent. Then they could identify Sen- 
nett's beloved of the moment. This investigation served yet 
another purpose. The rose entry stood as a warning to any 
mere author or public relations counsel who might have a 


moth-like desire to flutter near one of Sennett's flames. 

One morning the spies unearthed a name new to them 
on the rose blotter. Inquiry revealed that the girl recently 
had been discovered by Sennett on the bridle paths; that 
he had sent her horse home. She accompanied Mack to the 
studio, there to begin work at once as a bathing beauty. 
When the snoopers set eyes upon the new water sprite, they 
agreed that their employer was a man of unimpeachable 

Within a few days after this goddess had begun to splash 
in the Keystone pool, almost every Sennett employe secretly 
longed for her favors. The sidelines were crowded when- 
ever she disported in the tank. Yet no Keystoner dared de- 
clare his love to this nymph. 

From the great outer world Public Relations Counsel 
Anthony returned with an astounding bit of news. Sennett's 
newest bathing beauty was a fickle mermaid. Anthony had 
seen her away from home waters, an amphibian creature, 
after all, who trafficked on land with the hypnotic violinist 
of Mack's Mission Theater. 

This violinist, Monsieur de Mandel, was no ordinary 
fiddler. For one thing, he had a profuse black beard and a 
maniacal eye. For another, he was the most highly paid pit- 
musician in the world. Monsieur's beard, his magnetic eye 
and his . acknowledged skill with the violin made him the 
pride of the Mission Theater. That playhouse had come to 
need all the attractions it could muster, for galloping Sid 


Grauman had opened his Million Dollar Theater amid a 
terrific ballyhoo and advanced methods of showmanship, 
elaborate prologues and special exploitation. None the less, 
Sennett's Monsieur de Mandel remained a sensation — par- 
ticularly among the ladies. 

Detective Anthony spent much time and energy in run- 
ning down clues concerning the bearded virtuoso's amours. 
Finally, he was privileged to report that the Casanova of 
the strings was in the throes of a monumental passion. It 
was Operative Anthony's opinion that Sennett's girl was 
flattered by the concert meister's overtures, that she had 
accepted several costly baubles from his artistic hand, but 
that she was playing upon his emotions quite as skillfully 
as he played upon his fiddle. 

At length this lass wearied of her whiskered knight and 
jilted him. She returned his gifts, all except a diamond 
which she retained as a souvenir, and went on her way to 
stardom. The hypnotic gleam faded from the maestro's eye. 
His fiddling became indifferent. He fell ill with unrequited 
love. He stopped preening his beard and looked more like 
Rasputin than Bernard Shaw. One night he vanished from 
the theater and from his home. He left a musical void in 
the cultural circles of the cinema capital. 

The cause of this emotional stress sat one evening in her 
elaborate hotel suite, while the waiter served a dinner of 
pheasant breast and truffles under glass. An admiring and 
thoughtful busboy handed her the evening newspaper while 


the waiter was transferring the food from a side-table to 
Madam's board. She looked casually at the headlines as she 
nibbled a canape. Then she frowned as she glimpsed a 
banner-line which read: 


Before she began to eat the breast of pheasant, milady 
shook a fork at the busboy. "I've half a mind to report 
you to the management. Do you call this service, inter- 
rupting a lady's dinner with a low suicide?" 

Young Jimmy Starr of the Los Angeles Record was 
asked by Sennett to join Keystone's publicity department. 
Starr accepted a part-time position which carried with it a 
peculiar but definite duty. He was to report every evening 
at the Tower and recite a summary of the day's news. 
Jimmy was to receive $75 a week. When he called at the 
cashier's window he found a check for only $50. 

"We deducted $25 for Mr. Sennett's birthday present," 
explained the beaming cashier. 

The indignant Starr learned that the employes at Key- 
stone each year purchased a gift for their master. His 
birthdays so far had netted him four de luxe phonographs. 
And now, Starr learned, a fifth talking machine was in the 


"It's a nefarious practice and an outrage!" Starr said to 
the King of Comedy. 

Mr. Sennett rose from the rubbing board. "Are you in 

Jimmy narrated his sad experience at the cashier's wicket 
and added : "People are going to start hating you. You don't 
want them to hate you, do you?" 

"No," said Sennett. "Just the opposite." 

"They held out $25 of my salary to buy you a victrola." 

Mr. Sennett was dismayed. "Good God! They're not 
going to give me another phonograph, are they?" 

"That's what they say, and I'm quitting." 

"I don't want you to quit," Sennett said. "What would 
make you happy?" 

"Nothing could make me happy," said Starr. "Absolutely 
nothing, with such an outrage going on." 

At this time Sennett had been offering a $100 prize in a 
title contest. Jimmy had heard he was almost certain to win 
the $100 with his suggestion, The Good-bye Kiss. 

"Tell you what I'll do," said Sennett, "if you won't quit, 
I'll let you win the $100 prize." 

"To hell with it !" said Starr. "I've as good as won it any- 
way. I'm quitting." 

"Just a minute," said Sennett. "What would I do without 
my news report?" 

"You'll have to read the papers yourself." 

"I wouldn't think of it," said Sennett. "I'll put a stop 


to this outrage of birthday presents. I'm up to my neck in 
victrolas anyhow." 

Starr won the prize, the cashier refunded the $25 birthday 
deduction, Sennett abolished the practice of giving presents 
and Jimmy remained as Keystone's news voice of the Tower 

One night, during an intimate press conference, Starr 
said: "Boss, that's a pretty tacky car you're driving." 

"What do you mean?" asked Sennett. "It's a Lincoln." 

"I know, but people are beginning to talk." 

"What they talking about?" 

"Oh, just saying you haven't got so much money. That 
you're in straitened circumstances." 

"That's a miserable lie! How can I stop it?" 

"Well," Starr said, "you're the King of Comedy, and if 
you're the king, you have to act like one." 

"Tell me what to do," said Mack. 

"First you have to get a better car, a Rolls-Royce, with 
a chauffeur in uniform." 

"What'll it cost?" 

"You could get a pretty good one for about $18,000." 

"All right," said Sennett. "Now go ahead and tell me 
the news of the day." 

Soon thereafter Starr saw an elegant Rolls-Royce drive 
through the arch and stop at the administration building. 
A chauffeur clad in resplendent tunic, doeskin pants and put- 
tees stepped down, opened the door and saluted as the King 


himself got out. Sennett smiled happily as Starr advanced 
to greet him. 

"Do I look hard up now?" 

Jimmy inspected his boss critically. The King was garbed 
in old golf knickers, an ancient plaid cap and coat-sweater. 

"You've got to dress better," said Starr. 

During the news conference, Sennett put up a gallant 
battle against becoming a fop. At length he promised to 
visit a tailor. Within a month he underwent a sartorial meta- 
morphosis. He then announced : 

"Jimmy, I'm now ready to take up Pasadena society." 

"Yes," said Starr, "but will Pasadena society take you 

Starr sometimes found Johnny Grey in the Tower room, 
his fingers on Sennett's wrist. He was feeling Mack's pulse. 
Although the stalwart and ruddy King never had been ill 
a single day, he often insisted that he had symptoms of a 
breakdown. At such times he refused to consult a licensed 
physician. Johnny would hold a watch, pucker his brow in 
the best bedside manner, explore for the boss's artery and 
announce with invariable solemnity: "It's normal." Mack 
would sigh like a relieved fog horn: "That's fine. I just 
wanted to be sure." 

Interlarded with the news bulletins of the day, Starr 
would report gossip gleaned at other studios. Sennett rel- 
ished stories about his competitors. One of the rib-tickling 
items had to do with Abe Stern, the backer of our long- 


neglected friend, Pathe Lehrman. Stern's studio had burned 
to a crisp while its owner was taking the waters at a Eu- 
ropean spa. A cable was sent to Stern, advising him of the 
disaster. He replied at once: 
"Fire the watchman." 

Sennett's publicity corps were accustomed to heralding 
their employer's sudden investments in gold mines, oil wells 
and real estate. They were hardly prepared, however, for 
the news that he had bought an entire mountain which over- 
looked what is now Mulholland Drive. 

Eager to inspect his alpine property, Mack started out, 
yodeling happily, to climb this Keystone Jungfrau. Part way 
up the side, he changed his mind. He returned to the studio 
to summon road-builders and rock-blasters. He commis- 
sioned them to build a tortuous avenue to the crest of Mt. 
Sennett. This highway cost $75,000. When it had been 
completed, Mack drove his automobile up the expensive trail, 
got out and proclaimed: 

"That's just about the finest view there is." 

He then rode down the mountain side, never again to 
return. For five years thereafter a giant steam shovel stood 
in idle and rusty majesty on the top of this eminence. This 
rock gouger finally was dismantled by an intrepid junk 

Sennett's motive in buying the mountain was obscure to 
his fellows. It was conjectured that Mack had thought oil 


might be discovered there. He confided his real purpose to 
Jimmy Starr while receiving the news reports of the day. 

"Jimmy, I'm going to build the greatest monument in the 
world on top of that mountain." 

"That's biting off quite a bit, don't you think?" asked 
Starr. "They have some pretty good monuments in Greece 
and Rome — what's left of 'em. And swell cathedrals all 
over Europe. And, before I forget it, the Taj Mahal in 

"I don't know what they've got in India," said Sennett, 
"and I care less. But I know a monument when I see one. 
I want something like the Pennsylvania Station in New 
York. Lasting. Made of granite and marble and as big as 
all outdoors." 

"What's it to be?" asked Starr. 

"Wise guys talk of India and monuments, but the great- 
est monument in the world is a home. I'm going to build 
a home up there and live in it, and it'll cost two million dol- 

"That's a lot of money for a home," said Starr. 

"You're telling me?" said Sennett. "I've figured how to 
beat the game. I'm going to charge admission to the public, 
and after I'm up in the morning they can even see my bed- 
room and bath." 

The Sennett publicity department now was called upon 
to prepare a national campaign, when Kessel and Bauman 


signed an impressive list of Broadway comedians and sent 
them to the West Coast. 

This onrush of stage stars presented a many-sided prob- 
lem. Sennett already had more clowns than he could use for 
the stories available. Furthermore, by his remarkable abil- 
ity to recognize and develop talent he had kept his salary 
rolls at a comparatively low average. The influx of the 
Broadwayites would increase production costs to an almost 
prohibitive degree. Weber and Fields, for example, were 
to receive $3500 a week. Contrast this with the $250 salary 
of Charlie Murray, or with Wallace Beery's $50 a week! 

Among other Kessel and Bauman stage recruits were Sam 
Bernard at $1000 a week, Willie Collier for a like sum, 
Raymond Hitchcock at $2000, Eddie Foy and the seven 
little Foys for $1200. As against these huge salaries, it is 
interesting to note that Chaplin had cost Sennett $125 a 
week. True, Charlie had gone from Keystone to Essanay at 
ten times that amount, and within two years was making 
a million dollars annually. Gloria Swanson received $65 a 
week from Sennett and left him to become one of the most 
highly paid women stars. Marie Prevost's original Keystone 
contract was for $40 a week, Phyllis Haver's for $15. Louise 
Fazenda received $50, Billy Bevan $80, Chester Conklin $80 
and Ben Turpin $75. 

These stipends, of course, were increased as the stars 
themselves advanced in popularity. Phyllis Haver, for ex- 
ample, received a raise every six months. By 1923, Miss 


Haver was being paid $650 a week. This actress' original 
$15 a week contract consisted of seven pages of clauses and 
conditions ! 

Polly Moran earned $150 weekly. Mary Ann Jackson, the 
four-year-old who used to delight so many Keystone pa- 
trons, was the recipient of $75 a week. She was the Shirley 
Temple of that era, but without Miss Temple's salary of 
$1250 every seven days. 

The enormous income of Hampton Del Ruth, the scenario 
editor, as mentioned in a previous chapter, was possible be- 
cause he received a bonus on all pictures with which he had 
had any connection. 

Sennett ordinarily did not pay huge salaries to his 
luminaries, but once they had made good at Keystone, their 
fortunes were assured in other fields. Even when they failed 
to "click" with the King of Comedy — as was the case with 
Harold Lloyd, who spurned custard pies and a salary of 
$30 a week to "go on his own" — the Sennett alumni seemed 
destined for wealth. Lloyd and Chaplin became the richest 
graduates of the slap-stick school, and among the wealth- 
iest of all film folk, past or present. Beery, Buster Keaton 
and Bebe Daniels departed Keystone to acquire considerable 

Kessel and Bauman conceded Sennett's powers as a dis- 
coverer of talent. They intended no disparagement by bring- 
ing Broadway stars to Hollywood. None the less, Sennett 
resented any intrusion, even by his backers. 


Newcomers to Sennett's rowdy premises always had to 
undergo a hazing which consisted of swimming-pool sub- 
mersions, acts of violence, practical jokes and public indig- 
nities. The Broadway stars mistook this manhandling as an 
affront. One of the few to see the joke was Willie Collier. 
The Keystone playboys had contrived to let an office ceiling 
drop on this amiable comedian. When he recovered con- 
sciousness, Willie drawled: 

"That's nothing. You should have seen how I brought 
down the house in Akron." 

Weber and Fields were idle for weeks before a comedy 
was assigned them. They called each morning at the studio 
to sit twiddling their costly thumbs outside Sennett's office. 
One day Mack inquired of them: 

"Just what are you guys doing here?" 

"We're supposed to work, Mr. Sennett." 

"Well," said Mack, "you'll be doing me a great favor if 
you get out — go anywhere. Go to the ball game; but for 
heaven's sake quit annoying me. I'll call you." 

The tall Mr. Fields and the short Mr. Weber were 
stunned. They sat for a long time on opposite sides of the 
room and groaned over the company's expensive indiffer- 

When Weber and Fields finally did get an assignment, 
one which called for under-water scenes, Joe Weber looked 
at the tank and then requested that the water be heated. 

"I can't go in unless the water is warm," he said. 


The Keystone Cops, used to ocean dips, attributed the 
Broadway comedian's reluctance to the effete life of Eastern 

Sam Bernard suffered the agonies of an overlooked actor. 
Delay drove him crazy. Finally, he discovered a bed on one 
of the sets. He made a practice of reporting each morning, 
then retiring to the property bed, there to sleep for a higher 
emolument than any other male ever received for a similar 

Eddie Foy fought with his director, Del Henderson. Mr. 
Hamlet of Broadway was assigned to make his debut in a 
circus feature. On the third day Eddie Foy, Jr., got in a 
mixup with his brother, Charlie, chased him off the set and 
pursued him almost to Silver Lake. The picture had to be 
halted. Henderson reprimanded Foy, Sr., for not making 
his kids behave. When anyone criticized his children ad- 
versely, Foy was ready to break skulls. He now began to 
grapple with Henderson. While this battle was in progress, 
Bryan Foy became embroiled with one of his numerous 
brethren. The ex-pugilist, Al McNeil, had to pry the brothers 
apart. Much of the fighting had occurred with the camera 
grinding and Polly Moran in the background making fun 
of Foy, Sr. When Foy learned of Polly's "fly catching," 
or scene stealing, he informed Henderson that he wouldn't 
work in the same sequence with any other comedian, male 
or female. To which Henderson replied hotly: 


"You couldn't work with anybody, anywhere. In no way, 
shape or form can you act, you big ham!" 

Eddie Foy turned to his progeny and said: "Come on, 
kids. Let us foreswear this snide environment." 

The Foy impasse held up the picture for two days. Hen- 
derson quit. The assistant director, Fred Frasey, had to 
finish the thankless job. 

Mack denies that he ever "framed" the big-salaried East- 
erners, but nevertheless they fell by the wayside when Sen- 
nett's own comedians performed in the background. The 
Keystone veterans stole every scene and almost every picture 
from Broadway's illustrious sons. Mack attributed the col- 
lapse of the invaders to the fact that they were accustomed, 
in their natural medium, to depend largely on the spoken 
word; that without words they became lost in the unfamiliar 
mazes of pantomime. At any rate, Sennett's cheaper actors 
made hash out of the imported ham. 

When Raymond Hitchcock arrived at Keystone, he did 
not remember even vaguely that Mack Sennett, now the 
head of the organization, was the same awkward dancer 
whom the great Hitchy had fired some years before. Nor 
did Sennett remind him of that occasion. Hitchcock entered 
the cinema with a confident belief that his art would pass 
unchallenged. He had composed a very funny sequence, 
wherein snakes would wriggle from his coat as he would 
deliver a Prohibition speech. But when the picture was 
shown, it was apparent that the mighty Hitchy was playing 


straight for Sennett's comedians. They mugged and "caught 
flies" all the time Hitchcock was in the foreground. 

Scene stealing was not confined to onslaughts on visiting 
talent, however. The Keystoners kept jealous watch of their 
team-mates at all times. Al Santell, a director who received 
his early education at Edendale, recalls a beautiful bit of "fly 
catching" by Harry Gribbon during a scene designed for 
the cross-eyed talents of Ben Turpin. 

When Gribbon insisted on marching up and down while 
Turpin was doing his gags, the cockeyed comedian roared : 
"Go sit down. This is my scene. I won't have another 
comedian grabbing off my scene." 

Mr. Gribbon, apparently squelched, sat down. Mr. Turpin 
was mollified. However, when he saw the scene at the pre- 
view, Turpin went into a tantrum. He learned, all too late, 
that every time he had passed the seated Gribbon, the latter 
had stolen the scene simply by crossing his eyes. 

When one of the New York comedians was asked to play 
a scene in which he was supposed to be exhausted, Sennett 
had Bull Montana and Strangler Lewis, then the world's 
champion wrestler, grapple with the star. By the time he 
appeared before the camera, the actor was in a most genuine 
state of collapse. 

The most extensive publicity campaign yet undertaken 
by Keystone's press agents involved a merger of interests 
which brought together in one organization the three fore- 

Mama Sinnott 
never stood in 
awe of her suc- 
cessful son. 


most producer-directors, D. W. Griffith, Thomas H. Ince 
and Mack Sennett. The new concern was called the Triangle 
Company. The merger was effected by Harry E. Aitken, 
formerly of Mutual, who met the three directors at the 
Harvey House at La Junta, Colorado. Triangle was incor- 
porated at a capitalization of $2,500,000. The stock was put 
on the curb exchange at $5 a share and quickly advanced in 

The new film company, anticipating modern raids on the 
Thesaurus, promised the public "a history-making era of 
super-masterpieces." It was announced that the Triangle pic- 
tures would be shown in key cities at two dollars per seat. 
This was a hitherto unthinkable tariff for a movie. 

The Triangle debut was at the Knickerbocker Theater, 
New York. Douglas Fairbanks' The Lamb, Ince's The Iron 
Strain, with Enid Markey and Dustin Farnum, and Sen- 
nett's My Valet, with Raymond Hitchcock, were the three 

A letter from Bauman to Mack Sennett, written before 
the genesis of Triangle, indicates that the company narrowly 
escaped the name of "SIG," a label composed of the first 
letters of each director's surname — Sennett, Ince, Griffith. 

To a casual observer, Keystone's studio seemed to be run 
along haphazard lines, its stories conceived amid confusion 
and executed with hit-or-miss abandon. Such was not the 
case. Despite the apparent eccentricities of the King and his 


court, the sound and the fury, there was an underlying plan, 
an almost mathematical precision in the manufacture of a 
Keystone comedy. 

The studio was composed of units. Fred Jackman was 
the trick supervisor. He directed all the chases, handled the 
animals and babies for what were termed "inserts." 

Another director, working independently of Jackman, 
handled the "straight comedy story." This director was al- 
lowed no scripts, even when Mack began to permit writers 
to dictate scenarios to secretaries. The director had to shoot 
the story from memory. If he became confused or ques- 
tioned the logic of the continuity, he consulted the writers. 
Together they would review the story, bit by bit. 

Neither the story director nor the chase director was 
aware of what the other had done until the film had been 
completed, cut, titled and assembled for release. All the chase 
director knew during the progress of any picture was what 
costumes the comedians were to wear. 

At night Sennett and his gag-men would view the rushes. 
The directors didn't see these prints of the day's efforts. If 
the scenes were funny, they were left as they were. If they 
were not funny, Sennett would inject what were called 
"bits," such as routines by stunt men or animals. 

For example, if a kitchen scene failed to be comical, the 
gag-men would insert a bit of business entirely irrelevant 
to the story but containing the element of surprise, such as 
a baby falling in the spaghetti. It was utterly immaterial 


whether these "bits" were story intrusions. An emergency 
crew of versatile comedians remained within call. If the gag- 
men's new scenes required a drunkard, a burglar, or some 
eccentric character, these types were available on short 

The Kitchen Lady, starring Louise Fazenda, was rescued 
by the Sennett zoo from box-office failure. A sequence was 
injected in which a cat was chasing a canary. When Louise 
climbed on the sink to save the bird, the cat's tail fell into 
the basin where a black bass was cavorting. The black bass 
snapped at the cat's tail and tried to pull the animal into the 
water. The cat leaped to freedom and ran in circles. In a 
room adjoining the kitchen, a paper hanger (who had noth- 
ing to do with the story) was at work. The cat ran thither 
and stepped in some paste. The way in which the cat worked 
to shake the paste from her feet "panicked" the audience. 
The effect was gained by placing small elastic bands on the 
cat's paws. In seeking to rid her paws of the bands, she 
gave the impression of trying to dispose of the paste. 

One of the most interesting contracts in the Sennett file 
pertained to the services of the Great Dane, Teddy. This 
intelligent dog ranked with Strongheart and Rin-Tin-Tin 
as a favorite motion-picture animal. Teddy earned $40 a 
week for saving many tottering comedies on the Keystone 
lot. The publicity men posed Teddy for the camera, a pen 
in his paw, and with Sennett looking over his shoulder, to 


"sign" the contract. The document contained this clause: 

"He, Teddy, shall render his services in a conscientious, 
artistic and efficient manner and to the best of his ability 
with regard to the careful, economic and efficient production 
of motion pictures and photoplays. It being understood that 
the production of motion pictures is a matter of art and 

Among the Keystone picture-savers was an elephant, 
Anna May. Sennett paid the Selig Zoo $125 a day rental fee 
for Anna May and $7.50 for her keeper. One clause in the 
contract read: "This property is not for sale and must be 
returned in as good condition as received, fair wear ex- 

Sennett had a contract with a cub bear — not the one which 
had wrecked his vegetable stalls in quest of syrup. It became 
immensely popular with audiences. This fact excited the 
jealousy of the owner of a performing dog. The dog's mas- 
ter thought that Sennett was "playing favorites." The 
hound's trainer brooded over the supposed partiality, and 
attacked the cub. He struck it across the abdomen with a 
heavy stick, killing it. The murder of the bear almost ended 
in homicide, when Sennett learned of the fatality to the baby 
bruin. Only the restraint of Abdul and a calming bath pre- 
vented grave consequences to the dog owner. 

The greatest animal actor of the Keystone zoo was Pepper 
the cat. This feline artist was pretty much the boss of the 
premises. She had been an alley cat on the day she had 


crossed Sennett's path. She looked at the King. He reached 
down to stroke her fur. Then he picked her up and carried 
her in his arms to the Tower. Pepper became a sensation. 

She got along fairly well with Teddy, but when that gen- 
tleman died Pepper had to work with three of his successors. 
The public did not know of Teddy's death and believed the 
three subsequent Great Danes to be the genuine Teddy. Pep- 
per, however, was not to be fooled. She did not take kindly 
to her new canine associates. Teddy III fulfilled a long- 
cherished ambition and pursued Pepper with vicious inten- 
tions. This unscheduled Keystone chase shattered Pepper's 
delicate nervous system and ruined her, temperamentally, for 
further camera studies. Her dignity was offended, her spirit 
broken. Despite Sennett's personal supervision of her diet, 
his bribes of calf's liver and whipped cream failed to re- 
store Pepper's amour propre. She retired to the peace of 
Edendale's alleys — the first and last Hollywood actress to 
abandon her career at its crest with commendable grace and 
disdain. Pepper let her public go hang ! 

Nothing amazed and perplexed Mack Sennett more than 
the staff of auditors he was now obliged to employ. They 
were always figuring in huge books. How could so many 
men keep busy writing all the time ? He decided to look into 
this matter. Mahomet was too timid to go to the mountain 
of books. So he had the books brought to him. The floor 
of the Tower was carpeted with fiscal tomes. The office 


manager undertook to guide Mack through the labyrinth. 

"To hell with all that," Mack cried out in self-defense. 
"Isn't there a synopsis to all this junk?" 

The auditor laid a paper on the rubbing table. "Here's an 

"So what?" 

"That is the sum total of everything. It shows how much 
you are worth. In round figures, about five million dollars." 

"Leave this with me and take the rest of your library 

Cutter McNeil found Mack poring over the magical sheet. 

"Look, my boy. Maybe you think this won't make a hit 
with a lady who's coming to see me this afternoon! An 
actress. It's twelve years since we saw each other. I was a 
kid in a burlesque show and she was the star. She laughed 
when I asked her to marry me, kicked up her heels and said 
she'd just as soon marry a mounted policeman. This paper 
makes it a horse on her !" 

Chapter 23 


THERE was a vacant plot of ground, about one hundred 
feet square, at the base of the hill where the sky-line 
chases were made. Eucalyptus trees stood at one side of this 
little oasis in the mad Keystone acres. Sennett used to stroll 
about the miniature park, alone, his graying head bowed. 

It was whispered that no stage or other building would 
ever rise on the site of the little park, unless Mabel Normand 
were to return to Keystone. Were she to come back from the 
exile which a stern public had decreed, Sennett planned to 
build for her a dressing-room bungalow under the eucalyptus 
trees. Architect's blue prints had rested for several years in 
Sennett's vaults, awaiting the day when Mabel should loosen 
the chains of scandal and ill health. 



Although he had been compelled to withdraw Molly-O, 
due to the Taylor furore, Sennett had starred Mabel in two 
other films, Susanna and The Extra Girl. They had met 
with disfavor in communities which persisted in condemn- 
ing the fallen idol. Mack hoped for Mabel's eventual vindi- 

"It's no use, Mike," she said. "I'm a liability to everyone." 

Mabel retired to her Beverly Hills home and tried to for- 
get her troubles. She was financially secure. Her real-estate 
investments had appreciated in value. She devoted her time 
to personal charities. 

Among the friends who did not desert Mabel were Ru- 
dolph Valentino, Buster Keaton, Charlie Ray, Charlie 
Chaplin, Norman Kerry and Lew Cody. Cody had known 
Mabel since she was twelve years old. They had played to- 
gether on the vacant lots of Staten Island. 

Cody had intended to become a physician and had studied 
medicine at McGill University, Montreal. Amateur theatri- 
cals, however, persuaded him to devote himself to a stage 
career. He played with stock companies and achieved a mild 
prestige in vaudeville. He failed as a manager of operetta 
troupes. His first screen work was with the old Balboa 
studio at Long Beach, California. 

Cody joined the Ince company and scored an enormous 
success as the leading man for Bessie Barriscale in a photo- 
play, Mating. He married Dorothy Dalton, a star of twenty 


years ago. They were divorced and then remarried, and 
again they were divorced. 

One evening Cody and Fatty Arbuckle were in a New 
York cabaret. They saw Miss Dalton, Cody's former wife, 
at a nearby table. Lew invited her to join his party. During 
the evening Cody proposed that Miss Dalton marry him for 
a third time. 

"We're such good friends," he said, "it couldn't possibly 
do any harm. What do you say, Dorothy?" 

On impulse she said : "All right. I'll marry you at noon 
tomorrow. Call for me at the Plaza." 

After Miss Dalton had gone, Fatty and Lew tried to as- 
certain how much wine they could drink. Early in the morn- 
ing they went to the Friars Club for a nap before the wed- 

Cody was the first to awaken. He yawned, looked at his 
surroundings, telephoned downstairs to ask where he was, 
then recalled that he had an engagement with Miss Dalton. 
He glanced at his watch and was amazed to find that it was 
five minutes till noon. He roused Arbuckle, no easy matter, 
and shouted: 

"Get up, whale meat! We're going to be late for my 

He' telephoned Miss Dalton's apartment, to ask if he 
might have a few additional minutes in which to shave. Miss 
Dalton was more than courteous. "Yes, my dear, you may 
have a few minutes and you may have a few years. In fact, 


you may have the rest of your life, for we're not going to 
be married. ,, 

" What's wrong?" Cody asked. 'Til only be a few minutes 

"A few minutes!" said Miss Dalton. "Where were you 
yesterday? I waited at the Plaza until 5 o'clock." 

Mr. Cody had an inkling of the horrible truth. "What day 
is this, Dorothy?" 

"It's Wednesday, Lew. Good-bye." 

The paths of Cody and Mabel Normand converged again 
at Edendale. He went to work at Keystone, a villain in sev- 
eral of Mabel's pictures, including Mickey. 

Sennett and Cody were on good terms. One day they were 
having a bath together and began to talk about their theatri- 
cal beginnings. Cody said: 

"The toughest season I ever had was when I backed a 
company, a bunch of bad singers who performed in a con- 
densed operetta. The funny part of it is I can't remember 
the name of my own company." 

"It is funny," said Sennett. "The name was The Dairy 

Cody was surprised. "How on earth did you know the 

"That's easy," said Sennett. "I sang bass in the quartet 
for two weeks." 

Cody was a gay, roistering fellow. Arbuckle, Buster Kea- 


ton, Jack Pickford and Norman Kerry were his intimates. 
These lively playboys often included Mabel Normand in 
their parties. 

"Mabel was like two fellows," Cody often would say. 

In February of 1926, Mabel signed with the Hal Roach 
studios to make short features. It was to be her screen come- 
back. A pre-view of her first Roach film, Raggedy Ann, was 
encouraging. She began another picture in July and suf- 
fered burns when a comedy bomb exploded. She recovered 
and renewed her efforts to re-win her laurels. 

The public again failed to greet Mabel's return to the 
screen with enthusiasm. Mack Sennett encouraged her. 

"There'll always be a place, a big place, for you at Key- 

"I want to make good elsewhere, Mack," she said. "I'll 
think about returning to Keystone after I've fought my own 
fight. You've done enough for me." 

On the night of September 18, 1926, Mabel Normand 
entertained a party of eight persons in her home. Lew Cody 
was one of the guests. Mabel and he were reminiscing of the 
far-away days in Staten Island. Cody said: 

"Say, do you remember me when I was just a greenhorn 
from New Hampshire? And do you remember the night I 
asked you for a date and you said you would meet me at 
six o'clock?" 


"No, I don't," said Mabel. "Why should one remember 
greenhorns from New Hampshire?" 

"Well," said Cody. "I recall how you never did show up. 
I waited until nine o'clock. And now I'm going to have 
revenge. Tonight we're going to get married." 

"Are you kidding?" Mabel asked. 

"No. Just marrying you. I dare you." 

"You can't dare me." 

Cody telephoned his friend, Charlie Blair, Beverly Hills 
police chief. "Charlie, I want to get married." 

"What's the gag?" 

"No gag," said Lew. "It's on the level and I'm sober." 

Chief Blair came over to Mabel's to check up on Lew's 
statement and on his condition. He saw that everyone was 
sober. He asked Mabel about the marriage. She said : 

"Well, we might as well get in closer proximity, so that 
we can bawl each other out without too much trouble." 

The question was, where could they get married? Blair 
tried to rouse the clerk at Santa Anna, the Gretna Green of 
Southern California. It now was midnight. Blair couldn't 
locate anyone there. Finally, he made connections with the 
license clerk and a minister in Ventura. 

Chief Blair provided a motorcycle escort and the wedding 
party started out in two cars. In one small town along the 
way, officers tried to arrest the Cody-Normand party for 
speeding, but were dissuaded by Chief Blair's good men. 

The Ventura minister who had agreed to perform the 


ceremony had several relatives as house guests at the par- 
sonage. When they learned that Lew Cody and Mabel Nor- 
mand were coming there to be married, they appeared in 
long flannel nightgowns to witness the ceremony. 

After the ritual Mabel sat on the dining-room table. She 
began to cross-examine the minister. Did he marry many 
people ? What were the names he liked best of all the people 
he had married? Did his marriages prove lucky? Had he 
ever kissed a bride? 

The poor clergyman was getting a little tired and said: 
"I don't know, my dear, whether I ever kissed a bride or 

"Didn't you kiss your own bride?" asked Mabel. 

"I suppose I did, my dear child. I suppose I did." 

The party returned to Cody's house at five o'clock in the 

In Hollywood, the land of public privacy, no marriage 
escapes the post-nuptial maledictions of busybodies. Specu- 
lation begins when the last handful of rice has been thrown, 
or, in the event of a command performance, when the final 
echo of papa's shot-gun has died away. When one considers 
the nervous temperament of filmland's brides and grooms 
and the noxious vapors they are compelled to breathe in this 
crater of envy, the wonder is that homicide does not follow 
the ten-minute honeymoons. Next to privacy, the rarest 
thing in Hollywood is a wedding anniversary. 


Perhaps the only way a married pair might avoid the 
long-drawn hours of scrutiny of scandal-mongers would be 
to take up housekeeping at once in the Hollywood Bowl. 
Massed thousands might sit there, as at a Greek pageant, to 
see for themselves how matters were progressing. Naturally, 
there would be cynics even in this gallery to cry "Fake !" 
or "Boo!" whenever the newlyweds spoke kindly to each 
other or embraced. 

It was unthinkable that the elopement of Mabel Normand 
and Lew Cody should escape the sardonic comment of Holly- 
wood's gods and goddesses of discord. Here was no mating 
of placid, conventional citizens. Cody was a high-stepping 
playboy, as kindly as Santa Claus but as wild as a Thibetan 
goat. Mabel, too, was not meant for hobbles. Were they 
really in love? How long would it last? 

Two weeks before he died, Lew sat in the patio of his 
home in North Maple Drive and talked of his and Mabel's 
attitude toward their marriage. 

"It never occurred to the gossips," he said, "that Mabel 
and I had something in common other than the usual lovey- 
dovey attractions. We knew each other from the ground up. 
We had played together as children. We still played as 
grownups. But despite our big front of gaiety and abandon, 
we both had become terribly lonely. Like all troupers, we 
consistently refused to admit, even to ourselves, that we had 
reached the peak of our professional lives and that the rest 
of the journey was bound to be downhill. Somewhere in- 


side both our hearts was that mocking voice that chills the 
blood of any professional : 'Where, my fine friend, do you 
go from here?' We turned to each other with complete trust 
and thorough understanding. We were loyal comrades. 

"Despite our unspoken hunger for companionship, and 
regardless of the air of tragedy that haunted us, there never 
was a tiresome moment between Mabel and me. We joked 
and ribbed each other constantly. Mabel would live at my 
house until its masculine atmosphere became too much for 
her. Then we would live at her house, which I found too 
feminine. We came and went as we pleased, with no excuses, 
no explanations needed. We could be free, and that freedom 
brought with it a kind of love that was beautiful and earnest, 
despite the surface of our tom-foolery. We were married for 
four years, and, almost until the end, I did not realize that 
Mabel was as ill as she really was, so great was her courage 
and her pride in keeping her troubles to herself. 

"Our only quarrels arose from her almost insane unself- 
ishness. She had had a million dollars, but gave most of it 
away. One night we were dining at a cafe when some Rus- 
sian artists began to sing. One of these warblers was a 
shabbily costumed woman whose voice as well as herself had 
seen better days. This woman kept gazing at Mabel's pearl 
necklace. Mabel noticed this, and, at the conclusion of the 
song, gave the $25,000 string of pearls to the woman, who 
said: 'Oh, might I wear it for just a little while?' 


" 'You may wear it always/ Mabel said. 'I am giving it 
to you to keep.' 

"This was downright folly, the sort that I could not con- 
done. After all, one does not go about giving pearl necklaces 
to strangers. I took the cafe manager aside, explained the 
situation and asked him to recover the necklace, which he 
did. Next day, I handed the pearls to Mabel, saying : 

" It's not fair to you or to the woman to give her such a 
present. She couldn't possibly dress up to the standard of 
that necklace. She would only pawn it or have it stolen.' 

" 'Maybe you're right,' Mabel said. 

"By five o'clock that evening, I learned that Mabel had 
visited the woman again and given her the necklace. When 
she returned home, she said, 'If you ever mention this mat- 
ter again, I'll hate you.' " 

A series of illnesses beset both partners of this union. 
Mabel had pleural attacks in February and went to the hos- 
pital. While planning a European trip with Cody in April, 
Mabel was again taken to the hospital. Although very ill, 
she would not consent to a ride in the ambulance. She 
thought the vehicle resembled a hearse. 

Cody now was engaged in personal-appearance tours in 
vaudeville houses. Mabel's ill health prevented her accom- 
panying her husband on these journeys. They were apart 
during most of 1928, a year in which Mabel attempted to 
make an independent picture as a Christmas gift for Lew, 


That photoplay disclosed beyond question that the sparkle 
had gone from her eyes and from her work. 

On Cody's return to Hollywood, Mabel again was taken 
to the hospital. An X-ray of her lungs indicated that she was 
suffering from tuberculosis. She wanted to see the X-ray 
plates. Cody had them substituted so that she might not 
know the truth about her condition. 

Lew visited the hospital daily, bringing gifts to Mabel. 
She never permitted him to buy costly presents, but pre- 
ferred trinkets purchased at the five-and-ten-cent store. She 
had a child's passion for opening bundles and packages, and, 
although very weak, would not permit the nurses to untie 
Cody's gifts. 

During this siege, Mabel often talked to Lew about pic- 
tures and picture-making. She had a thorough knowledge of 
the business, but when he told her that talking pictures were 
a proven success, she would not believe it. 

"There you go, always clowning." 

Although Warner Brothers and Fox had appeared almost 
simultaneously in the summer of 1926 with sound pictures, 
Mabel never had seen nor heard one. When Cody maintained 
that entire dramas, with dialogue, were the rage, Mabel 
simply could not credit the news. 

"It's the truth," said Cody, "and I am signed to work in 
my first talking picture with Gloria Swanson. It's called 
What a Widow." 

"Maybe you're telling the truth for once," Mabel said. 


"We'll do one together when I get well. But you'd want to 
get all the billing, wouldn't you?" 

"Naturally," said Lew. "I'm a greater star." 

"You mean a greater ham." 

When it was time for Mabel to come home from the hos- 
pital, she again refused to ride in the ambulance. Cody 
finally prevailed on her to do so by promising to accompany 
her. On the way home, Mabel said : 

"Lew, I want you to buy me an ambulance. It's the only 
way to travel. You can lie down, smoke, and, if you get in 
an accident, you're all undressed and ready for the morgue." 

Cody left Hollywood in 1929 for a visit to New York. 
He was stricken with a heart ailment in the Warwick Hotel. 
Hope for his recovery was slight. He requested that Mabel 
be kept in ignorance of his condition; that she be told he 
was engaged in rehearsing a New York play. 

At almost the same time that Cody fell ill, Mabel suffered 
a severe recurrence of her lung trouble. This news was with- 
held from Cody. Lew's manager, Harry Joe Brown, wrote 
telegrams daily to Mabel, and signed Lew's name. He ar- 
ranged with his Western office to send telegrams to Cody, 
with Mabel's signature on the wires. In this way, neither 
one knew that the other was near death. 

In the autumn of 1929, Cody was permitted to leave New 
York in the care of a nurse. He went to Palm Springs, Cali- 
fornia, to recuperate. One day he telephoned home to tell 


Mabel that he was returning to Hollywood that afternoon. 
She disobeyed the orders of her physician and got out of 
bed, put on a frock and had the maid dress her hair. When 
Cody was carried up the porch steps by his attendant, Mabel 
had her first knowledge that Lew had been ill. He did not 
know that she was sitting up for the first time in ten weeks. 

''Only one of us can afford to be sick," said Cody. "It's 
my turn." 

After they had visited for an hour, Cody said he would 
go to a hotel, so that he "would not be a nuisance." Mabel 
promised to call on him. 

That night Mabel was aroused by the whimperings of 
Cody's fox terrier, Traffic. The animal was about to have 
pups. Mabel insisted on getting up to take care of the ex- 
pectant mother. She called Cody the next morning to tell 
him of the litter. 

"Traffic always has claimed to be a fox terrier," she said, 
"but on thinking it over, she elected to give birth to some 

"That's why I call her Traffic,' " Lew said. "We're lucky 
the house isn't full of Shetland ponies." 

The midnight vigil with Traffic aggravated Mabel's ail- 
ment. She began to cough and run a temperature. Physicians 
ordered her to a sanitarium in Monrovia. 

Cody called at the sanitarium every afternoon. She seemed 
to be unusually weak. Her hands appeared tired and small 


as she opened the presents that Lew had brought. She 
weighed but eighty pounds. 

On February 21, Cody told Mabel that several of his 
friends were planning a birthday party in his honor the next 
evening. She said : 

"Then don't bother coming out here. You're none too 
strong yourself." 

"I want to see you every day." 

"Not tomorrow, Lew. Go ahead and have a good time. 
Just send me some of the party favors, and I'll pretend I'm 
celebrating, too." 

"I'll send you a lot of souvenirs," said Lew, as he kissed 
her good-bye. 

Half-way through his birthday party, Cody complained 
of a pain in his side. His physician advised him to go to the 
beach for a complete rest. Lew telephoned the hospital. 
Mabel was asleep. Cody informed the night nurse that he 
was leaving for his beach house. 

"I'll come over to see my wife in the morning," he said. 
"Tell her I'll bring lots of presents." 

At midnight Mabel awakened to ask her nurse : "Did any 
packages come?" 

"Mr. Cody telephoned that he's bringing some presents 
in the morning. Now go to sleep." 

"All right," Mabel said, "but if any packages come, wake 
me up. I want to open them myself." 


She fell asleep, to awaken again at 2 o'clock in the morn- 

"Are you sure no packages came for me?" 

"No," said the nurse. "They'll be here in the morning." 

"Don't let anyone open them, please." 

At 2 130 o'clock, the nurse called Cody at his beach house. 

"You don't need to come to the sanitarium," said the 

Cody knew what she meant. Cinderella had gone home. 

Chapter 24 


THE crown of mirth rested securely on Mack Sennett's 
graying head. He could survey his far-flung dominions 
and say with another comic sovereign, "I am the State." 
All the cinematic sans-culottes of the whirligig industry were 
capering for King Mack's profit. A mere hint of rebellion 
was swatted down with his bed-slat sceptre. The ex-boiler 
maker stood like a colossus astride the world of laughing 

In the sedate realm of the two-dimensional medium, a 
duumvirate ruled. These co-regents of respectable hokum, 
in the name of art in its more wistful mood, tossed millions 
of dollars to their long-faced courtiers. Side by side on the 
golden throne sat Adolph Zukor, former Chicago furrier, 



and his partner, Jesse Lasky, ex-cornet player and only white 
member of Honolulu's Royal Hawaiian Band. Together, 
they had founded the motion-picture dynasty which had 
emblazoned on its escutcheon the legend, to be read in a 
religious whisper — Famous Players-Lasky Corporation. 

When Triangle was less than two years old, plenipoten- 
tiaries from the court of Famous Players came with papier- 
mache olive branches. An Anschluss between the Zukor- 
Lasky corporation and the Griffith-Ince-Sennett interests 
was proposed with all the flourishes and ruffles befitting such 
an empire-making event. One headstrong principal de- 
murred. Harry E. Aitken, controlling a majority of Tri- 
angle stock, was steadfast in his refusal to put his holdings 
into the general pool. The ministers bowed, wrapped up their 
hand-made olive branches, and departed with dignity unim- 

Resentful of Aitken's failure to agree to the merger, Sen- 
nett prepared to withdraw from Triangle. There was one 
factor that deterred Mack from summary action. Not the 
least of his contributions to the triumvirate had been the 
magic implicit in his name. Triangle had contractual rights 
to the name, Mack Sennett, and ownership of the trade- 
mark, Keystone. 

Sennett was not averse to the relinquishment of the Key- 
stone brand, which he had borrowed, after all, from the 
Pennsylvania Railroad. What he would not give up under 
any circumstances was his own name. It represented years 


of struggle and had withstood Hollywood chicanery with- 
out a blemish. It was the badge of his success as well as a 
real commercial asset. He was entitled to its professional ad- 
vantages, law or no law. 

With Machiavellian cunning, he laid his plans. There was 
to be a conference of Triangle directors at which they would 
seek to compose their differences. Failing to effect harmony, 
dissolution seemed the only alternative. Sennett was pre- 
pared to resign. He held his own counsel, however. Not even 
his attorney knew beforehand of his client's strategy. 

When the meeting was opened it became apparent that the 
opposing factions could not be reconciled. Sennett offered 
his resignation, contingent upon an equitable settlement of 
his holdings. There was considerable haggling. Sennett, 
seemingly annoyed, leaped to his feet and shouted dramati- 
cally : 

"To hell with stock, division of assets and the rest! What 
I want is the trade-mark, Keystone. It belongs to me." 

His auditors were astounded. They had anticipated that 
Sennett would make cash demands beyond reason. And now 
he wasn't interested in money at all ! They saw his flushed 
face, his Ford Sterling version of rage, his Fatty Arbuckle 
interpretation of hurt feelings and his Gloria Swanson por- 
trayal of defiant motherhood. They had not realized that the 
Keystone trade-mark was so precious. They forgot for the 
moment their fears that Sennett might seek to raid the treas- 


ury. All minds were drawn toward the importance of Key- 
stone as a name. 

One of the opposition lawyers raised a hand. "Just a 
moment, Mr. Sennett! Let us view the matter in a rational 


Mack shouted the barrister down: "The name 'Keystone' 
belongs to me, and you can view it in any light you goddam 
please. I worked too long to make it a household word to 
let it go by the board." 

Amid speeches, threats, fist-shakings and raised voices — 
particularly the one which had long ago resounded from 
John D. Rockefeller's choir loft — a compromise was offered. 

Unable to overcome Sennett's resistance, one brilliant 
lawyer assumed a manner of judicial calm. "Mr. Sennett," 
he said, "you are quite within your rights in maintaining 
that the said trade-mark has a definite value. We are pre- 
pared to reach an accord as to that value." 

"All right, let's get down to brass tacks. What have you 
got to offer?" 

The opposing party and their solicitors retired to cham- 
bers. Sennett awaited their return confidently. The off-side 
huddle resulted in a proposition that exceeded Mack's dream. 
He had hoped to salvage a few of his actors and directors ; 
his adversaries made him a gift of them all ! That was a pre- 
liminary concession. The title to the Edendale property be- 
came unexpectedly his. Added to this windfall, the con- 
ciliatory spokesman bought his Triangle stock, at market 


price, and added the startling bonus of $180,000 in cash! 
Mistaking Mack's amazement for truculence, the eager ne- 
gotiators added a fillip by tossing in casually what their 
adamantine foe most passionately wanted — the name, Mack 
Sennett. When the ink had dried on the documents, the 
lawyers injudiciously congratulated themselves upon acquir- 
ing the coveted trade-mark, Keystone. Mack's parting shot 

" Gentlemen, far be it from me to suggest where you can 
put your Keystone. Six months from now, you'll know 
yourselves. So long." 

Sennett's valedictory was prophetic. In less than a year, 
the company staggered, floundered and collapsed. The King 
of Comedy incorporated his subtly re-won name for $3,000,- 
000 and released his comedies under an arrangement with 
Paramount studios, owned by Lasky and Zukor. This con- 
tract expired in 1921, when Sennett again went forth under 
his own banner. During his first year, he realized a profit of 

Mack steadily added to his real-estate holdings. He in- 
creased the acreage of a ranch in the San Fernando Valley 
and refused to sell it to Bailey Brothers, Los Angeles real- 
estate brokers, for a million dollars. He had paid $59,000 
for it. His studio properties were worth upward of half a 
million dollars. He had gold mines, a quartz claim in the 
Deadman Flat Field near Grass Valley, which he sentimen- 


tally named the "Normandie." He owned land believed to 
be rich in oil. He had a second ranch adjoining Griffith Park, 
and held onto the famous mountain, ecstatically mentioned 
in the editorial columns of Arthur Brisbane, America's 
benevolent apostle of house and garden. Mack did not know 
the extent of his wealth. Estimates varied between five and 
eight millions of dollars. 

Less imaginative producers continued their raids among 
Sennett's actors. Undisturbed, the master magician con- 
tinued to extract new talent from his inexhaustible hat. 
Harry Langdon, Andy Clyde, Sally Eilers were a few of 
his more recent discoveries. 

Death conspired to reduce the ranks of Sennett's literary 
proteges. The writers could escape neither film magnates nor 
the Grim Reaper. Glassmyer uttered his last criticism of 
Prohibition brandy, and died. Grey's final title was in the 
nature of a testament in the manner of Frangois Villon. He 
rose from a coma and instructed the last survivor of the 
Fiddlers Three, Ray Griffith : 

"Take me to the funeral pyre, and then place the ashes 
where ashes belong." 

Sennett's most prosperous years were 1924, 1925 and 
1926. Then came the first blow of the fusilade that after- 
ward dropped the art of slap-stick low. Sound entered the 


cinematic silences, linking the eye to the ear. The movies 
became vocal. 

Meanwhile a group of alert realtors had approached Sen- 
nett with an offer to donate twenty acres of land in North 
Hollywood if he would establish a studio in their neighbor- 
hood. The King consented and prepared to spend $450,000 
on this venture. Whether he believed in it or not, the talk- 
ing picture was compelling him to shift his ground. 

The trend of sound indicated all too clearly that slap-stick, 
with its comical illusions, was endangered. It was apparent 
to Sennett that the pantomime of his actors, when vocalized, 
lost its effectiveness. Audiences, which had joined whole- 
heartedly in the absurd travesties and exaggerated violences 
of a Sennett comedy, lost interest when spoken words inter- 
vened in a world of grotesquerie. Conversation and panto- 
mime only served to perplex comedy audiences. Further- 
more, several of Mack's foremost stars — including Ben 
Turpin — had voices unfit for recording. 

A murmur was rising, not from the multitude, but from 
the screen itself, to make the King's throne seem a little less 
secure. He marshaled his forces. Gags were still gags ; they 
could be modified, re-dressed and polished to meet the first 
hint of a menace. New talent could be drawn out of the hat. 
He introduced Bing Crosby to the screen after three major 
studios had made tests of the crooner, only to pronounce him 
definitely unsuited for motion pictures. Similarly, he rescued 


W. C. Fields from obtuse producers who failed to appreci- 
ate the quality of this satirical artist. 

The menace of sound did not abate. The voices were now 
climbing toward a crescendo. Sennett, the fighter, threw all 
his resources into the battle. He mobilized his property and 
had it mortgaged to the limit. 

When the panic of 1929 descended upon him, he made 
the brave man's mistake of believing that he would weather 

The advent of sound and the collapse of the world's eco- 
nomic structure found Sennett with his back to the wall, 
but still full of fight. Then came a thrust from nowhere, a 
sudden and unexpected stab which Sennett, like Caesar in 
the Forum, accepted as the unkindest cut of all. 

The animated cartoon was a new and popular toy — espe- 
cially to a world in despair. It preserved and accentuated a 
thousand-fold all the illusions of slap-stick. The pen was 
mightier than the bed-slat. By the exercise of a few thousand 
strokes of a cartoonist's quill, a whole animal kingdom of 
stars came into being and had an immortal existence in an 

These charming imps cost but little, were not given to 
fits of temper and knew not the weaknesses of the flesh. 
They worked for no salary, and for the sheer fun of it ; they 
would never grow old. 

What did a horde of prankish animals care about censor- 
ship? In a Sennett comedy, if anyone tied a tin can to a dog's 


tail, an irate humane society would release its furies. In an 
animated cartoon, India-ink dogs could be stung by bees, 
have turpentine applied to traditionally tender spots, be flat- 
tened by steam-rollers, reproduce their kind with strangers 
and otherwise defy the conventions. 

In the olden days, it was considered odd, to put it mildly, 
when Balaam's Beast muttered a timely phrase or two in the 
presence of his astonished master. The screen miracle of a 
vocalized Noah's Ark is a matter of merry sanction. 

A nimble rodent has become the world's hero. In the eyes 
of Mack Sennett, he must always remain a scraggly mus- 
tachioed villain whose mischief will never be undone. 

Who killed Cock Robin? 

"I did," said Mickey Mouse.